Back to the Moon! Most powerful rocket ever built is set for the biggest blast-off in history


Back to the Moon! Most powerful rocket ever built – with boosters taller than Nelson’s Column – is set for the biggest blast-off in history

  • NASA’s Space Launch System will produce up to 8.8million pounds of thrust 
  • Boosters taller than Nelson’s Column will be used to launch the Orion spacecraft
  • This will see astronauts – including a woman for the first time – land on the moon 

Towering at 177ft tall, these are the two boosters that will propel astronauts back to the Moon for the first time in 50 years.

They are part of NASA’s Space Launch System – the most powerful rocket ever assembled.

The boosters are each taller than Nelson’s Column – which is 169ft tall – and will be used to launch the Orion spacecraft.

This will see astronauts – including a woman for the first time – land on the lunar surface by 2024. 

Towering at 177ft tall, these are the two boosters that will propel astronauts back to the Moon for the first time in 50 years

Towering at 177ft tall, these are the two boosters that will propel astronauts back to the Moon for the first time in 50 years

It is the first deep space rocket built for human travel since Saturn V, which was used in the Apollo programme in the 1960s and 70s.

The Space Launch System (SLS) will produce up to 8.8million pounds of thrust – more than any other rocket in history – to build up enough power to blast Orion out of a low-Earth orbit.

Its orange aluminium core contains around half a million gallons of liquid hydrogen and 200,000 gallons of liquid oxygen, to propel its crew and cargo. 

Its orange aluminium core contains around half a million gallons of liquid hydrogen and 200,000 gallons of liquid oxygen, to propel its crew and cargo

Its orange aluminium core contains around half a million gallons of liquid hydrogen and 200,000 gallons of liquid oxygen, to propel its crew and cargo

The enormous boosters, pictured being put together in five segments at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, will be needed for just 126 seconds to help the spacecraft reach 17,500mph as it launches.

After the bulk of the rocket has broken away, it will then reach a top speed of 24,500mph.

Artemis I, the first mission for the SLS, will send Orion up without a crew, with later missions hoped to carry astronauts to the lunar surface – and eventually, hopefully, to Mars. 

It is the only rocket capable of sending Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon on a single mission.

Last week the rocket passed the all-important ‘green test’ – firing all four of the engines on its central body simultaneously for eight minutes, as it will do when it launches into space. 

Next month that core will be laid on an enormous barge called Pegasus and floated 900 miles – the best way to transport large space travel components – from NASA’s Stennis Space Centre in Mississippi to the Kennedy Space Centre.

The rocket has so far cost $9.1billion (£6.6billion) to develop, manufacture and test. Each mission it is sent on is likely to cost between $1billion and $2billion (£730million to £1.46billion).

David Rothery, professor of planetary geosciences at the Open University, said: ‘I really hope the Artemis landings will inspire today’s children like I was inspired when the Apollo astronauts walked on the Moon.’

The boosters are each taller than Nelson’s Column – which is 169ft tall – and will be used to launch the Orion spacecraft

The boosters are each taller than Nelson’s Column – which is 169ft tall – and will be used to launch the Orion spacecraft

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