NASA engineers are assembling the giant rocket that will take the first woman to the moon later this decade as part of the Artemis program. On Monday (14), the central segment was placed on the mobile platform, between the vehicle thrusters.
Assembly of the Space Launch System (SLS) began late last year at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A total of ten segments will form the vehicle before the inaugural launch, which should take place later this year.
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The rocket is an essential part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, which plans to send the first woman and the next man to the moon in 2024. NASA officials also hope the SLS will be used to reach Mars and other “deep space destinations ”.
When fully assembled, NASA said the SLS rocket will be taller than the Statue of Liberty (93 meters) and will have 15% more thrust at takeoff than the Saturn V rockets used on Apollo missions 50 years ago, making it the rocket most powerful ever built.
“The start of assembly of the SLS rocket is a big step for the Artemis program,” said Andrew Shroble, a flow manager for integrated operations at Jacobs, a company that works with NASA on the Artemis program, in a press release. “This shows that the mission is taking shape and will soon go to the launch site.”
The NASA Artemis I mission is expected in 2021, with two test flights around the Moon, unmanned. Artemis II is slated for 2023, with astronauts on board, in preparation for Artemis III to take astronauts to the surface of the Moon.
The project was named after the Greek goddess of the Moon and twin sister of Apollo – a set of missions in the 1960s and 1970s that aimed to bring the first humans to the satellite.
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