It has been two months since the space shuttle retired and # years since the end of the shuttle program was announced. Now, finally (and in the opinion of many about # years too late), NASA has officially announced a new space vehicle that will not only take Americans back into the cosmos, but deeper into space than any humans have ever gone before. Cue the Space Launch System (SLS).
400 feet tall in one configuration and 20% more powerful than the Saturn Vs that took Americans to the Moon four decades ago, the SLS is the vehicle NASA will use to take Americans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars by the mid 2030s. Right now, the target date for the first test flight in sometime in 2017. As for the rocket itself, it is a combination of old and new technology that takes advantage of, according to NASA chief Charles Bolden, proven hardware and the latest innovations.
For NASA, this could be just the shot in the arm the ailing (at least in terms of human spaceflight) agency needs as, until now, there was simply nothing to be all that excited about. Now, with a rocket design finalized and timetables set, NASA has some clear-cut goals to live up to, so long as politicians don't decide to pull the rug out from the funding.
For more on the SLS:
My Examiner page
NASA press release
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