NASA has shared some stunning images of its next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on the launchpad.
The images, tweeted on Thursday, March 24, show the rocket — topped with the new Orion spacecraft — on Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with the sun rising in the background.
— NASA's Exploration Ground Systems (@NASAGroundSys) March 22, 2022
The new rocket is at the heart of NASA’s plans for a new era of human lunar exploration as part of the Artemis program. The SLS is set to take its maiden flight in the next few months. The Artemis I mission will involve SLS sending the Orion spacecraft on a fly-around of the moon in an uncrewed voyage designed to test the hardware of NASA’s new spaceflight system.
If all goes to plan, Artemis II, currently slated for no earlier than 2024, will send a crew on the same route, while Artemis III will use the SLS in a mission to put the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface in what will also be the first crewed touchdown since the final Apollo mission in 1972. NASA is currently eyeing 2025 for the highly anticipated lunar visit, though that date could slip.
NASA rolled SLS to the launchpad for the first time last week. It is now undergoing final testing that will enable the space agency to confirm the Artemis I launch date.
NASA’s new launch vehicle, dubbed the “mega moon rocket,” stands at 322 feet (98.1 meters) and is capable of creating about 8.8 million pounds of thrust. That awesome capability makes it 13% more powerful than the space shuttle, which last launched in 2011, and 15% more powerful than the Saturn V rocket that sent Apollo astronauts on their missions to the moon five decades ago.
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