What is NASA's "Mega Moon Rocket"?
After an ambitious 10-year development process, NASA's "Mega Moon Rocket," also known as the Space Launch System (SLS), was launched on November 16, 2022. It is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA in collaboration with various aerospace companies and other partners. It can lift payloads far beyond the reach of existing space launch vehicles. NASA designed it as a heavy-lift launcher for deep-space missions, and it has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of outer space.
The Past and The Current Space Launch Vehicles
To fully understand the impressive capabilities of Mega Moon Rocket, it is essential to look into its historical context. NASA has created several groundbreaking rockets throughout history, which have propelled space exploration to new heights since its inception in 1958.
Notable achievements include putting Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin on the moon's surface during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 and launching a robotic spacecraft to explore Saturn and all eight planets within our solar system - including 13 moons beyond Earth!
From the Saturn V rocket to more recent vehicles like Ares I and Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicles designed for missions beyond Earth's orbit, NASA engineers continue pushing boundaries with their advanced designs.
While these incredible feats have significantly advanced humanity's knowledge about outer space, technological limitations, size, and cost constraints restrict us from further leaps into deep space exploration.
With NASA's current Artemis program, such limitations are being challenged more than ever with new technological advancements like Mega Moon Rocket.
Necessity is the Mother of All Invention
Whether by necessity or curiosity, NASA has been exploring new frontiers for human exploration and settlement to inspire future generations.
As part of its grand Artemis program, NASA aims to bring the first female and next male astronauts to the moon by 2024 - with their remarkable Mega Moon Rocket leading the charge. Through this endeavor, they aim to establish a sustained human presence on lunar soil in preparation for exploring Mars and other celestial bodies outside our solar system.
What is The Purpose of The "Mega Moon Rocket"?
Below is a key breakdown of how this will all work:
- The SLS's main objective is to launch astronauts in the Artemis Program to explore the moon and beyond and to send, in 2024, the first woman and the first man of color to the moon since 1972.
- It will allow exploration of deep space locations, including the Moon, Mars, and beyond, as part of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) architecture and enable astronauts to leave low Earth orbit.
- The rocket's secondary goal is to make robotic and human space travel more affordable and reliable.
- It will enable astronauts to leave low Earth orbit and allow for exploration of deep space locations, including the Moon, Mars, and beyond, as part of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) design.
Space Launch System Components
The "Mega Moon Rocket" has more than 8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. It can launch large payloads into deep space exploration at high speeds. According to statistics from NASA, SLS can reach a staggering rate of 24,500 miles per hour, making it capable of delivering crew and supplies to our moon.
The SLS features a liquid-oxygen and liquid-hydrogen-fueled core stage, known as the "Core Stage" or Core. A five-segment solid rocket booster (SRB) provides additional thrust to help propel the rocket from Earth's surface into orbit.
Additionally, two strap-on boosters designed by aerospace manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne provide extra thrust to the SLS. The rocket's payloads, such as satellites and spacecraft, are secured atop the Core Stage in a protective shroud called the Upper Stage Adapter (USA).
NASA has also developed an expendable upper stage for the SLS. This upper stage is known as the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), which propels large payloads into deep space. It can deliver up to 44 metric tons of equipment, crew, and cargo beyond Earth's orbit.
Success of Artemis 1 and Mega Moon Rocket's Potential in The Future
The highly anticipated debut of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion capsule was a resounding success! On November 25, 2020, the mission went into orbit around the moon - an accomplishment.
After passing all its required milestones during this short "moon visit," it returned to Earth on December 5 with perfect timing. Though NASA would not officially declare victory until more data was collected and analyzed, many expected Artemis 1 full approval.
When the rocket for the first Artemis mission was launched, it was uncrewed but carried dummies with sensors to gather safety information for a future crew.
With each postflight mission, NASA gathers more data to plan its ambitious 2nd project – a 10-day voyage around the moon with astronauts aboard. Suppose all goes according to schedule in 2024.
In the third mission, humans will set foot on the moon no earlier than 2025. In that case, it won't be long before another remarkable feat of exploration shortly follows - the historic step onto lunar soil near the south pole during Artemis 3 just one year later! Scientists already have their sights trained on this area as a precious resource; rich deposits of water ice could make for excellent research opportunities and even permanent habitation for future generations.
NASA is planning several future missions using the SLS and Orion system. These could include sending astronauts on multiple trips around the moon, as well as missions to the moons of Mars and eventually establishing a permanent human presence there.
NASA is also looking at ways to reuse parts of the SLS in future missions, such as using discarded core stages for human spaceflight or launching robotic probes farther into the Solar System.