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Science: 

NASA’s new rocket to take humanity to Mars?

NASA

Mars, here we come!

July 20th, 1969 has been engraved in history as a small step for man, but one giant leap for mankind – the day man walked on the moon. Now, the time has come to write history again as NASA has unveiled its largest rocket ever, ready for deeper space exploration.

The Space Launch System rocket will be the biggest rocket ever constructed – standing at 384 feet tall – over 20 feet taller than the famous Saturn V (363 feet), that performed humanity’s virginal trip to the moon. The first test flight is estimated to cost over $7 billion and the entire project somewhere around $12 billion.

“We are on a journey of scientific and human exploration that leads to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in an official statement. “And we’re firmly committed to building the launch vehicle and other supporting systems that will take us on that journey.”

The final version of the rocket aims to handle up to 130 metric tons, making it suitable to lead space explorations as far as Mars.

“Our nation is embarked on an ambitious space exploration program, and we owe it to the American taxpayers to get it right,” said Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot, after overseeing the review process. “After rigorous review, we’re committing today to a funding level and readiness date that will keep us on track to sending humans to Mars in the 2030s – and we’re going to stand behind that commitment.”

Despite great enthusiasm for the project, the SLS has already seen a delay to its first flight scheduled for 2017. NASA’s budget is also still to be approved by lawmakers in Congress. These hiccups and obstacles aside, though, NASA’s latest rocket could put a genuine mission to Mars on the agenda sooner than you think.

Photo: MSFC/NASA

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