Nowadays, it seems as if everyone is gearing up to go into space, and NASA refuses to get left behind. From 1981 to 2011, the Space Shuttle Program dominated human space exploration in the United States. However, since March 2011, NASA has had no way to put astronauts into orbit. The ending of the Space Shuttle Program faced a lot of criticism because NASA was depending on Russia to get humans to the International Space Station. In the last few months, NASA has taken significant steps in the production of its new rockets, with plans to send astronauts into deep space. This project is part of the Journey to Mars, which intends to send humans to Mars sometime in the 2030s.
The rocket NASA plans to send is the Space Launch Systems rocket, or often dubbed, the SLS rocket. NASA constantly runs tests on their rockets during the development stage. The most recent test that occurred is a test fire of the RS-25 rocket engine. These are the same engines that carried the space shuttles and are some of the most reliable engines in the world. In this case, modifications have been made to increase the power output. A new controller will also be tested; it will relay data back and forth from the rocket to the engine and check the status of the engine during flight. This engine is being examined for the high-performance levels which will be required to carry the SLS rocket and its cargo to orbit. The RS-25 Engine No. 0528 was fired for more than seven consecutive minutes, testing a variety of conditions that it could be subjected to.
Testing these engines are an important part of preparing the SLS rocket for launch. Its first test flight will be in 2018. This test flight, Exploration Mission-1, will test the SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft, and will be crucial in preparation for the future. Exploration Mission-2, set to launch in 2023, will use RS-25 Engine No. 2059, which was tested back in March. The mission will be the first time the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft carry a crew of astronauts. It will be the furthest humans have ever traveled from Earth since Apollo 17 returned from the Moon in 1972.
There is an enormous challenge of putting people into deep space, as well as Mars. Many of these difficulties will not be solved easily; nonetheless, the missions will test essential equipment, reveal problems and provide us with valuable data to move forward.
The video of the RS-25 Rocket Engine test can be found here:
"NASA Continues Progress on the Journey to Mars with Latest RS-25 Rocket Engine Test." NASA. Ed.
LaToya Dean. NASA, 18 Aug. 2016. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
"NASA Marches on with Test of RS-25 Engine for New Space Launch System." NASA. Ed. LaToya
Dean. NASA, 18 July 2016. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
Wall, Mike. "NASA's 1st Manned Flight of Orion Space Capsule May Slip to 2023." Space.com.
Space.com, 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.