Nasa launch of world's biggest rocket SLS 'that will put humans on Mars' just weeks away

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NASA is getting ready to roll out the red carpet for its biggest ever rocket, which it hopes will one day take astronauts to Mars.

The maiden flight of the monster Space Launch System (SLS) could take place as early as March after years of delays and budget chaos.


The uncrewed Artemis I mission will launch from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on a 236,000-mile-long (380,000-kilometre-long) journey to the Moon.

Nasa's new Orion crew capsule will be lifted to low-Earth orbit atop the Space Launch System (SLS) before detaching and going the rest of the trip alone.

If all goes to plan then it will be followed by a crewed mission – Artemis 2 – in 2024.

That trip will test Orion's systems in Earth orbit in order to pave the way for Artemis 3 in 2025, which will send astronauts to the lunar surface.

On January 5, Nasa said it expected to roll out the SLS megarocket to Launch Complex 39B in mid-February.

There it will undergo a fueling test and practice countdown in what is known as a "wet dress rehearsal".

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The SLS will then return to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) for final preparations before returning to the pad for the launch.

The US agency had initially hoped to launch the test flight by the end of last year, with astronauts set to walk on the Moon by 2024.

However, in December it delayed the rollout because of a problem with a computer that controls one of the rocket's RS-25 engines.

In December, Nasa said it was “reviewing launch opportunities in March and April” for Artemis 1.

"Nasa will set a target launch date after a successful wet dress rehearsal test,” the agency said in the January 5 update.

It achieved a major milestone last October when it stacked the Orion crew capsule on top of the SLS.

The huge spacecraft now stands 98m tall inside the VABg at Kennedy Space Center.

Once completed, the SLS will be the most powerful rocket in the world.

Under its four engines and two solid rocket boosters, the spaceship will reach a record-breaking speed of Mach 23 before separating from its crew capsule.

Mach 23 is equivalent to around 17,647 miles per hour.

Once Nasa has conduced its unmanned SLS test, the space agency will train its sights on its first manned lunar mission in 50 years.

The aim of the ambitious mission is to land on the lunar south pole and mine pockets of water ice there.

The frozen ponds were discovered back in 2009 and could potentially be used for life support purposes or even to manufacture rocket propellant.

The 2025 Moon mission is intended to lay the groundwork for the development of a permanent orbiting lunar base by 2030.

This base will provide a springboard for an onward mission to Mars in the 2030s, according to Nasa.


In other news, personalised smart guns, which can be fired only by verified users, may finally become available to U.S. consumers this year.

Scientists are embarking on a mission to unravel the mystery behind dozens of grisly child mummies buried in an underground tomb in Sicily.

Police have caught an Italian mafia henchman who'd be on the run for 20 years after spotting the fugitive on Google Maps.

And, one of the best-preserved fossils ever found has confirmed that young dinosaurs burst from their shells just like baby birds.

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