NASA has completed the construction of a giant rocket that will deliver American astronauts to the moon, the head of the space agency Jim Breedenstein said on Monday. And despite the delays, the mission should take place in 2024.
The new SLS rocket is 65 meters high, which is equivalent to a 20-story building. It is also considered the most powerful and must reach a record speed of 23 mach before separating from the upper stage with the Orion capsule.
Now, the rocket is ready at the assembly center in New Orleans. NASA chief executive Jim Bridenstein called it “a very important day” for the space agency. “We have made significant progress in preparing the mission of Artemis-3, in which the first woman in history will go to the moon in 2024,” he added.
The development had to spend more time due to delays and cost overruns - the first flight of the rocket was supposed to be completed in November 2018. And since then, the project budget, according to the June report, has increased from $ 62 billion to a record $ 8 billion.
The mission of Artemis consists of several stages. In June 2020, after the completion of all tests, the Artemis-1 mission starts, which is supposed to land at the south pole of the moon. The mission's goal is to extract ice to ensure the life of future colonists, as well as for its separation into hydrogen and oxygen for use as rocket fuel. In the future, the Moon is considered as a transit point for flights of people to Mars, which should go there already in the 2030s.
It is worth noting that the cost of not only rockets has increased. By 2019, NASA spent about $ 34 billion on SLS, Orion, and the Exploration Ground Systems Program, but by 2024, the amount will increase to $ 50 billion. And the future of moon exploration depends heavily on the support of the White House and Congress, responding for budget allocation.
But besides NASA, private companies are also interested in the moon. Most recently, SpaceX President Gwynn Shotwell shared information on a schedule for future Starship rocket flights. In her speech, she stated that SpaceX would put Starship on the moon before the end of 2021. And just yesterday, Shotwell said that the first manned flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station could happen in February 2020.