Monday, December 09, 2019


Via Spacedotcom:

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine showed off the completed core stage of the first-ever Space Launch System rocket during a news event held today (Dec. 9).

The event was held at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where the core stage of the rocket that will launch the first Artemis mission was recently completed. That flight, the first step toward NASA's goal of landing humans on the moon in 2024, will carry an uncrewed Orion capsules around the moon in 2021.

"Think of it as NASA's Christmas present to America," Bridenstine said, referring to the core stage's imminent departure for testing at another NASA facility, Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

All told, the core stage is 212 feet tall (65 meters) and includes four engines and two liquid- propellant tanks. "I'm going to call it the ninth wonder of the world," Douglas Loverro, the new head of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said during the event.

Bridenstine's speech was more about celebration than announcements, but the discussion left in the air several concerns that NASA is facing about both the rocket and the larger Artemis program.

NASA has contracts with Boeing for only the first two SLS rockets, Bridenstine said, not later iterations of the launcher. But it's the third rocket in the series that will send astronauts to the moon in 2024 to meet the agency's much-touted goal.

The agency also continued to avoid offering a schedule for Artemis flights or a cost estimate for the SLS rockets. Bridenstine has been demurring on offering a launch date for the uncrewed first Artemis mission, deferring that question to the new director of human exploration. Although he called Loverro up to the stage at the event, no date was announced.

Similarly, NASA has deflected questions about the anticipated price per rocket of the SLS program. In his comments, Bridenstine argued that cost will depend on how many rockets NASA ends up commissioning — the more rockets, the lower the individual price will end up. In October, the agency expressed interest in as many as 10 SLS rockets for the Artemis program..."

All of that may be true, but it is clear that great progress has been made.

You gotta let that sink in. NASA caught me, and doubtlessly many others, by surprise. For years I knew that the actual spacecraft, Orion, was being worked upon, with success, so I thought 'that's not gonna be the bottleneck. When are they ever gonna start work on the rocket?' I had a faint grasp of the gigantic work that had gone into the Saturn V and to the best of my knowledge NASA actually still has to start working on taking that hurdle of hurdles.

And then all of a sudden to hear that it's actually almost ready!

I still think that 2024 is pretty unlikely to be the year Man sets foot on the Moon again. But that we are much closer to that goal than we thought is certain.


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