NASA has unveiled its new rocket design. Below is an animation of what it will look like. This monster will have more power than the space shuttle’s booster rockets, more even than the Saturn V used for the Apollo Missions (Saturn V is the most powerful rocket ever put into operation). It will be ridiculously expensive with a cost estimate of $35 billion (keep in mind NASA’s cost estimates are always wrong) and won’t be ready for at least ten years.
But the Space Launch System, or SLS, isn’t just another space shuttle. The boring task of putting astronauts in Earth orbit will be left to private companies. NASA’s new rocket will take humans beyond the Moon. In other words, we’re going to Mars!
I have to admit I was skeptical when Congress and the Obama Administration shut down the space shuttle program and canceled the next mission to the Moon. Companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are picking up where they left off, but somehow that just doesn’t feel the same. For the last year or two, space enthusiasts like myself have only had the International Space Station to be excited about.
According to NASA officials, the first SLS crew is supposed to fly in 2021. The SLS will send astronauts to an asteroid in 2025, and the first human on Mars will arrive sometime in the 2030’s. Private companies can worry about traveling to and from Earth orbit while NASA gets to be pioneers.