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Why we’re excited about NASA’s new ‘Mega Moon rocket’

NASA officials have announced a late August launch date for their new “Mega Moon rocket.”

The vehicle is officially known as the Space Launch System (SLS) and is part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to put humans back on the moon for the first time in 50 years. NASA officials have tentatively determined this August 29 as start day for the most powerful rocket ever built to make a trip to the far side of the moon and back, Live Science previously reported. This first mission will be unmanned, but later expeditions will place the first woman and the first person of color on our lunar companion.

We here at Live Science are always over the moon about every new launch vehicle, but the Mega Moon rocket in particular makes us dizzy. Here are some reasons why.

It’s a whopper from a spaceship

The Apollo program of the 1960s and 1970s was a paramount pinnacle of the space age, providing astronaut experiments and moon buggies (opens in new tab) to our natural satellite. The Saturn V rocket that carried humans to the moon during those Apollo missions is probably the benchmark against which all other launch vehicles should be compared.

For the first mission in the Artemis program – which NASA hopes will eventually bring the first woman and person of color to the moon – the SLS will be in its so-called Block 1 configuration, Live Science’s sister site, Space.com, reported (opens in new tab). In this configuration, the Mega Moon rocket will be topped by the Orion crew vehicle and will be 98 meters tall – taller than the Statue of Liberty – and weigh 5.75 million pounds (2.6 million kilograms). according to NASA (opens in new tab).

That means it will actually be slightly shorter than the Saturn V, which was 110.5m tall. But SLS will be able to deliver 8.8 million pounds (4 million kg). Thrust, 15% more than the Saturn V’s 7.5 million pounds (3.4 million kg) of thrust and even exceeds the 7.8 million pounds (3.5 million kg) of the Space Shuttle system. Thrust, according to the Houston Space Center (opens in new tab). SLS will be able to carry more than 30 tons (27,000 kg) to the moon. While this is slightly less than the Saturn V, less of the Mega Moon rocket’s carrying capacity is wasted on the various rocket stages and fuel, making it an overall better cargo transporter. according to Space.com (opens in new tab).

Future versions of SLS will be even more powerful. The Block 2 configuration, which has an additional upper stage for more thrust and a larger area for payloads, will be 111 m tall and capable of delivering more than 50 tons (46,000 kg) to the lunar surface. according to NASA (opens in new tab). The rocket will be capable of delivering crews and materials to Mars and should allow exploration almost anywhere on Mars solar system.

An image of NASA’s Mega Moon rocket as it taxied to the launch pad for the first time in March 2022. (Image credit: NASA)

It has powerful engines

The workhorse of the Artemis program is the RS-25 rocket engines, four of which sit on the bottom of the core stage of the Mega Moon rocket. The RS-25 was originally used to launch the Space Shuttle and NASA currently has 16 of these available for various SLS missions. These veteran pieces of space hardware have been overhauled with new computer controllers and upgrades to ensure they can withstand the increased performance demands of a Mega Moon rocket launch.

RS-25 rockets are powered by 730,000 gallons (3.3 million liters) of supercooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, according to Space.com (opens in new tab). The RS-25 are supplemented by two solid rocket boosters mounted on the side of the core module. Each of them is 54 m tall – about the height of a 17-story building – and can deliver 3.6 million pounds (1.6 million kg) of thrust. according to NASA (opens in new tab). The boosters will burn approximately 6 short tons (5.4 tons) of polybutadiene-acrylonitrile propellant every second, and they are the largest and most powerful solid boosters ever built.

In its Block 1 configuration, the SLS’s engines will deliver power equivalent to 160,000 Corvette engines. according to NASA (opens in new tab). With Block 2, this is boosted to a staggering 9.2 million pounds (4.2 million kg) of thrust, 20% more than the Saturn V and the equivalent power of 208,000 Corvette engines. The agency has also said that a single RS-25 engine could generate enough power for 846,591 miles (1,362,456 kilometers) of residential streetlights — a street length that would reach the moon and back and then a circle Earth 15 times.

NASA hopes the Artemis II mission will send the unmanned SLS around the far side of the moon and back. The trip is scheduled for late August, although delays have plagued rocket launches in the past. (Image credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University)

It will enable amazing exploration and science

One of NASA’s stated goals with its Artemis program is to land “the first woman and first colored person on the moon.” The SLS’s Orion crew capsule is capable of carrying four astronauts on space excursions and is expected to do so for the first time with the Artemis II mission, which will take place sometime after the unmanned Artemis I mission, which is currently scheduled to fly around the moon, will be later in August.

Artemis III is expected to take humans to the moon in 2025 at the earliest according to Space.com (opens in new tab). The program hopes to eventually build an orbiting station around the moon called the Lunar Gateway and establish Artemis Base Camp near the moon’s south pole. according to NASA (opens in new tab). Having people on the lunar surface instead of just robots will allow faster and more complicated methods of exploring the moon.

As Space.com previously reported (opens in new tab)NASA lists its main scientific goals for Artemis, which focus on understanding planetary processes on airless worlds, characterizing lunar ice and determining if it can be used as resources for human missions, learning more about the history of the Earth-Moon system and to search for records of ancient solar and stellar processes that may have affected the moon, and to use the moon as a base from which to view the universe and make unprecedented astronomical observations.

Multiple infrared composite images of Enceladus, Saturn’s icy moon. The Mega Moon rocket could explore such distant regions of the solar system on later missions. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/LPG/CNRS/University of Nantes/Space Science Institute)

The Mega Moon rocket will also set the stage for further exploration of Mars, both by making it easier to do something like a robotic sample-return mission and by teaching NASA how to mitigate the risks involved are to send people deeper into the solar system. Being extremely powerful and capable of transporting large amounts of cargo, it also allows scientists to dream about it even more ambitious projects (opens in new tab)like collecting samples from the geysers of Saturnmoon Enceladus.

Originally published on Live Science.

Why we’re excited about NASA’s new ‘Mega Moon rocket’ Source link Why we’re excited about NASA’s new ‘Mega Moon rocket’