NASA has confirmed that their Space Launch System, an exploration class rocket, has been approved for development and will send us to Mars.
This is the first time since NASA built the Space Shuttle that the organization has approved the development of an exploration class vehicle, and it’s hoping that the rocket will eventually take them to Mars. As stated by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, “we are on a journey of scientific and human exploration that leads to Mars, and we’re firmly committed to building the launch vehicle and other supporting system that will take us on that journey.”With the ability to lift 130 metric tons (roughly the weight of two space shuttles), the rocket will be able to carry NASAs new Orion capsule and a series of equipment into orbit with ease. Test flights are first scheduled in 2018, and NASA hopes to land a man on Mars by the 2030s. Until then, it will ferry people and cargo into space and may even send people to rendezvous with an asteroid.
Though the commercialization of space flight through companies such as SpaceX has recently been talked about as the future of space exploration, NASA’s new rocket helps the organization maintain its crown as the “king” of space. In fact, with this rocket NASA will be able to lift ten times the weight of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. This news also comes at a time where Russia is seeking to rebuild their own space program, which also hopes to explore the solar system in the 2030s.
This all said, the development of the launch system is already behind schedule. An unmanned flight was originally planned for 2017, but as stated previously, is now set for 2018. Hopefully, the program won’t be delayed any further, because to quote the great Buzz Aldrin…
“Get your ass to Mars.”