NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), the rocket intended to take American astronauts to Mars in 2030, has passed its final full-scale tests.
This NASA test lasted for 7.5 minutes and was the third and final test before the SLS makes it first un-crewed flight into space in 2018, carrying the Orion capsule. Astronauts won’t ride the rocket into orbit until 2021. Both rocket boosters are both 17 stories tall and burn 5 tonnes of propellant per second to create 3.6 million pounds of thrust.
When fully assembled, the SLS will be taller than the Statue of Liberty and carry twice the weight of NASA’s older Space Shuttles. The rocket is designed to carry four astronauts into space.
“SLS is going to be the most powerful rocket ever built when it’s done several years from now,” Rick Mastracchio, a Space Shuttle astronaut, told the press during the test. “It’s going to have to throw up all this hardware into low Earth orbit so we can then take it to the Moon and beyond, all the way to Mars.”
SLS’s pair of solid five-segment boosters will work with the spacecraft’s main engines during the rocket’s initially flight, providing more than 75 percent of the thrust the SLS needs to break free from Earth’s considerable gravitational pull.
NASA’s plans to have the SLS and Orion carry astronauts to Mars has been repeatedly sabotaged by the Obama administration, which was accused of leaking information to the press about missions and has threatened to veto the projects.
President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats consider shrinking NASA’s Mars budget to expand its global warming research as a political imperative. Obama has repeatedly attempted to cut other NASA directorates, like space exploration, so money could be redirected to global warming science.
America is currently better prepared to visit Mars than it was to visit the Moon in the 1960s, according to a study by NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The total costs of current plans to send Americans to Mars comes out to roughly $35 billion spent by 2025 to arrive in 2030.
Former President George H.W. Bush’s Space Exploration Initiative was projected to cost $400 billion in 1989 over 20 to 30 years, but the program never got off the ground, as it would have been the single costliest government undertaking since World War II.
While former President George W. Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration would have cost $230 billion in 2004. In comparison, the Apollo program which landed astronauts on the Moon would have cost roughly $170 billion in 2005 dollars, making cost estimates for current plans appear inexpensive in comparison.
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