NASA plans most powerful rocket ever
An artist's conception of what SLS will look like.
September 14th, 2011
02:48 PM ET

NASA plans most powerful rocket ever

For those still mourning the end of the shuttle program, there's a new reason to be excited about space exploration: It's called SLS.

SLS stands for Space Launch System. The rocket, announced Wednesday, will be the largest and most powerful ever built. Its first flight, which will probably be unmanned, is targeted for the end of 2017.

In theory, SLS will allow astronauts to go unprecedented distances; there's talk of going to an asteroid and, eventually, Mars.

At a cost of $18 billion over the next six years, you might be wondering whether that's realistic, especially at a time when NASA has been laying off employees from the shuttle program.

But William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said Wednesday that there's a "flexible ability" to "keep costs under control."

"If we don’t get exactly the annual budget we anticipated, we have enough flexibility in the program; we can accommodate that by doing some things," he said.

The $18 billion includes a substantial amount of design work, Gerstenmaier said, and includes some, but not all, costs of the second and third flights as well as the initial launch.

Much of amount the development has been minimized: The shuttle main engines can be used, and the solid rocket motors have been extensively tested. There's still a lot of work to do on the core design for the test flight and the upper stage design. The second and third flights might have to be delayed, but NASA is striving to stick to a schedule with a first launch in 2017.

"We’re going to try to protect, as much as we can, that 2017 milestone as we move forward," Gerstenmaier said.

SLS will have three engines initially but could grow to five engines, Gerstenmaier said. It will fly about once or twice a year.

After at least one unmanned test flight, SLS has been planned to transport astronauts on the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, which can carry six people.

Initially, SLS will be able to lift 70 metric tons, but that can be expanded to 130 metric tons when advanced boosters are added. That first version will have 10% more thrust than Saturn V did at its liftoff and will be slightly shorter. The second iteration of SLS will have 20% more thrust than Saturn V at liftoff. The Saturn V rocket was 363 feet tall, and the second version of SLS will be about 40 feet taller.

Saturn V is the rocket that NASA's Apollo and Skylab programs used from 1967 to 1973, and it is the only vehicle that has taken humans out of low-Earth orbit and to the moon.

SLS may look like the child of Saturn V and the space shuttle - at least, according to some Twitter users - but Gerstenmaier says that's not really true. There are similarities to the shuttle, but advancements in manufacturing techniques have made a big difference in terms of efficiency. There's lots that's new: for instance, solid rocket boosters that may be used for early test flights have advancements in nozzle materials and insulation to newer, green technologies.

"Even though rockets may look very similar, there are advances that are taken to get to efficiencies and to get to more reliable systems," said Doug Cooke, deputy associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

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soundoff (311 Responses)
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  4. mobetta

    More CNN hype/BS??? This is the most powerful rocket ever at 7,000,000+ lbs thrust? How about the Soviet N1 at 11,000,000+ lbs thrust? Of course, it did make a rather spectacular dent in the Soviet landscape when it blew up......

    September 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • MC

      NASA's most powerful rocket, not "the world's"

      September 23, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • The Wizard

      The artist's conception is AWSOME! It looks like a Saturn V with SRBs – hmmm, pretty original....not. How much do these guys get paid?

      October 4, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
      • AKADidymus

        I always felt ripped off because I was born too late to see a Saturn V launch. I couldn't be happier to see a new rocket design that looks just like one. It was, after all, one of the best-looking rockets ever built.

        November 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  5. lestalk

    It is always exciting to see what plans NASA had planned for the next launch vehicle – it is always disappointing when they are always cancelled because of budget constraints.

    September 15, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • The West wins again

      That's what I would say if I was a Chinese propgandist insanely jealous of the United States.

      "If we don’t get exactly the annual budget we anticipated, we have enough flexibility in the program; we can accommodate that by doing some things," he said.

      I wish I could laugh in your face in person.

      September 15, 2011 at 2:23 am |
  6. helenecha

    SLS sounds amazing. Make no mistake it’s a great partner of our constellation exploration plan. Godspeed to NASA!

    September 14, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • Mark

      This would be true iff there was enough money to build the SLS and the lander, hab, capsule, etc. to create a complete mission, and enough money to do these missions frequently enough and to enough different destinations (only the capsule will be made).

      In reality, this is a "rocket to no where", not because it's technically bad, but because it is immediately obvious that NASA as funded cannot afford to run missions with it or build the in-space hardware for those missions.

      Given this fiscal constraint, there were better options – and indeed no need to build a big rocket at all. We have LEO infrastructure now and the ability to build vehicles that stay in space and go from LEO to BEO. We could be building (admittedly a very slow) "Starship Enterprise" in LEO right now and recyclable lander. Instead, we're stuck with a 50-year old paradigm of direct-from Earth Apollo.

      SLS only seems like a great idea until you realize that NASA as-is cannot afford it, and no one can see NASA's budget increasing by the 2-3x needed anytime in the future. And then it really hurts to realize we could be doing so much more with the money NASA has...

      September 15, 2011 at 1:42 am |
    • The West wins again

      America, phuck yeah!

      So much for the America haters trying to doubt us. You idiots haven't caught up to our moon landing and we're headed to mars. LoL

      September 15, 2011 at 2:25 am |
  7. ruemorgue

    When it comes to technology, it surprising how many times the *liberal* democrats kill these programs because the money should be used in *short-sighted* social programs. Having said that, it's also surprising how often *conservative* republicans kill these programs because of *short-sighted* idealogy - government can't do anything right, I mean correct!

    September 14, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Bosko

      As far as I'm concerned. This should be paid for by eliminating SSI and cutting off all anchor baby costs. If a hospital deliveres an anchor baby, it should be at their OWN expense. No social services for illegal aliens.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
      • mickey1313

        so, you are for sacrificing all of the parents and grandparents. With a setiment like that there is not doubt, you are a thieving republican. You do know that SSI is part of the government ONLY job, to "provide for the common defense and secure domestic tranquality". Im pretty sure they are talking about our youth and our elders, not our rich eletests.

        September 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
      • StanCalif

        Get real! SSI is self funding, the problem is our politicians began raiding the cookie jar during the Vietnam debacle and have continued to ever since! "Anchor babies" and illegal immigrants are also NO BIG drain! Are you willing to go pick grapes or tend agricultural products in 100+ degree weather day after day for less than minimum wages and no "benefits"? Are you paying your housekeeper and landscaper legal wages, including SSI, unemployment insurance, medical benefits and vacation time? I doubt it! Wait until you have a spouse with Alzheimers! Who will you hire for doing what you won't do?
        The real problem we have is the high unemployment rate for "middle class" workers! A decade of tax cuts for the rich produced nothing, I repeat NOTHING! These are not people you can hire for picking grapes, cleaning your house, mowing your lawn, or caring for your ailing spouse! Think about this the next time you leave cash on the table for your housekeeper!

        September 14, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  8. StanCalif

    Anyone who truly "believes" we ever landed on the moon with live human beings are the today's Tea Party! Completely gullible and ready to "believe what they are told"!
    JFK had a very close working relationship with Hollywood. All those "landings" were filmed in New Mexico or Arizona! At that time, everything was "propaganda", not facts! Why is it that the "moon rocks" and "soil samples" never revealed anything new about the moon? Simple, they came from the USA here on earth! Why is it that a new mission to the moon is considered impossible today by NASA? The technology back then was simply not capable of such "missions", so they were all staged here on earth! Why is it that NASA mysteriously "lost" recordings of these "landings"? Again, simple answer, they never happened! Facts are facts, all the Apollo missions were pure propaganda in our cold war with Russia! Today, there is no solid "proof" of any US person ever walking on the moon! Because it never happened!

    September 14, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Ted Ward

      What drugs are you on, Mr. Misery and Pessimism? Perhaps you'd like to rewrite the history of the human race while you're at it. You make the Tea Party look like Einstein. Keep it up.

      September 14, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
      • StanCalif

        A smart a** answer is not an intelligent reply! Go vote for your Tea Party, go "believe" in how cutting taxes creates jobs, go believe in the "Almighty greatness of the USA", then remember a few simple facts!
        We had to "turn tail and run, quickly" from Vietnam. After we left, the country became prosperous! We won nothing in Iraq NOTHING! We never got one drop of oil from this miserable country! Are we "winning" in Afghanistan? Is Pakistan our "loyal ally"?
        And please, explain to me why NASA could never consider manned landings on the moon after Apollo? The Russians sell "tourist tickets" to the space station. Wouldn't tourist trips to the moon be highly profitable??? I would rather go to the moon than the Space Station! However, going to the moon just isn't possible, never was! It was all pure propaganda!

        September 14, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • mickey1313

      So, the radiotransmissions the chiniese and russians had, were fakes, and they didnot blow the lid off the hoax? I used to believe how you believe, but there have been people since then that have gone. Im not 100% convenced that we did go, but to say there is no evidance is a little off. I dont think with the way things are today with safty and all, that we would be allowed to do it again.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • ApolloWitness

      They went, they landed and all they brought back were a bag of rocks! I watched it live on TV, they couldn't have faked it. All of the "faked" photos were proven to be real by Mythbusters – the shadowing was dead on. The flag waving behaved exactly as it would in the vacuum of space – once it started moving because it was being placed into the moon it would move around because there's nor air to stop it. Just recently high res pictures showed the Apollo 17 landing site. The trackes from the rover were still there!

      September 15, 2011 at 12:03 am |
      • Yeah

        Cool i didn't know that is there a site where you can see these pictures?

        September 16, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Jay

      Is being convinced that everyone else is the crazy one a prerequisite to being a quack?

      But hey, why base your beliefs on proof when you can choose to cling to small inconsistencies that come with any event? Careful not to crinkle your tin hat, buddy.

      September 15, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • nomorespecialinterestBS

      StanCalif- Aren't you missing another episode of Jerry Springer you misinformed, unenlightened, narrow minded, idiot? If you were to say that to Buzz Aldrin he would punch you in the teeth. Here's some "proof" for you dumb*** that is if you could stop feeding your fat face with led paint chips for five minutes. Follow this link and see how profoundly stupid you really are. http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2011-09/new-nasa-photos-show-footprints-moon

      September 15, 2011 at 2:06 am |
    • Yeah

      oh my god you cannot be serious.....

      September 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • SuffolkGuy

      And JFK was abducted by aliens who left behind an assassinated simulcrum in his place to cover the trail. Yes.

      September 17, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • SuffolkGuy

      More seriously, Vietnam became more prosperous many years after the war by abandoning its communistic economics. So what did North Vietnam win via the war whose goal was to apply communistic economics? What did North Vietnam's war accomplish if they gave up their goal?

      September 17, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • The Wizard

      Sure buddy.....
      Thousands of workers – it was all fake and nobody ever revealed the big lie. Maybe you should try taking the giant leap for mankind.

      October 4, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
  9. Don

    Agree with most the other posts....terribly sad but it'll never happen. Will go over budget, or not get past the initial drawing boards and simply get cancelled. I wanted to be an astronaut all my life till I realized it would be a waste of my talents since nothing makes it into production from NASA anymore...had to settle as a doc in electrical engr. for private sector. Such a shame.

    September 14, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  10. David - Boston

    A cold war with the former Soviet Union provided the impetus in the 1960s; now it is China pride versus Western prejudice. Does America need a similar visionary such as Dr. Werner von Braun who convinced President Kennedy to go to the moon or does America have the collective will for a mission to the planet Mars. I suspect that the will for such a mission will come once American sees a Chinese flag firmly planted on the surface of the moon.

    September 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Von Braun? you meen the nazi scientist that thru progect paperclip was given a full pardon (along with most nazi scientists) and given the reins to our rocketry program. The first US rockets were literally V-2 rockets with the swastikas and the iron cross painted off.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
      • barackobama

        What's your point?

        October 6, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  11. Bowman

    "Open the pod bay doors, HAL."

    September 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  12. V2

    It will run a few Billion over budget and just get cancelled.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  13. Bill744

    Good to see that they are building on what is proven – shuttle main engines, solid boosters – and moving it forward. The Navy long ago proved that starting from scratch can be risky, and expensive (read up on the Vanguard rocket if you'd like to know more).

    September 14, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  14. Matthias Russell

    This is nothing new or exciting. it is just the Ares V painted to look like a Saturn V. Same rocket, same abilities, different names. NASA did the same thing with Orion. I support the program as I supported Ares V (but not Ares I) but this is not new or news-worthy. It will probably get redrawn and renamed after the next election, anyways.

    September 14, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  15. u2canbfmj

    The Real Space program is classified. They feed the crumbs to NASA, then tax payers complain they spend too much money on NASA programs. The old look over hear trick...You sheeple watch the front door while all the money is going out the back.

    September 14, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Bill744

      Does agent Mulder live on your street?
      Geez the psychos that come out of the woodwork, or the home theater room.....

      September 14, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • soma_junkie

      What you are saying is correct and obvious to anyone whose investigated the subject. There real space program is not civilian, but military (Air Force, Navy and NSA). Why people assume their government would be honest with them about these things is beyond me. Anyone who has any doubts, look up the testimony of the following people and begin educating yourself: Col. Philip J. Corso and Ben Rich (former CEO of Lockheed Skunk Works). Then look at the testimony of hacker Gary McKinnon who broke into NASA's database. Or don't and remain ignorant, suckers.

      September 15, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  16. outawork

    Looks like Saturn 5 with space shuttle boosters strapped on.

    September 14, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Ever

      The Saturn 5 was the best system, even better than the recently retired space shuttle. NASA was sold that the Space Shuttle could be launched on a weekly schedule, which turned out not to be true.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
      • CelticHunter7

        Actually it was stated by NASA that the turn around time would be two weeks. Still no where near the actual time frame. Plus the shuttle was overly complex for the job it was designed for. Simpler, more reliable systems are better in the harsh conditions of space.

        September 14, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  17. john

    Send one launcher to Mars on a mission to place return fuel in orbit. Use another to land remote fuel manufacturing and habitat equipment on Mars. If those are successful, use two launchers to assemble the Mars lander, return vehicle, and fuel in earth orbit. Then the excitement can begin like it should have 20 years ago.

    September 14, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  18. svscnn

    Most powerful rocket ever, huh?

    That should make for a pretty impressive explosion shortly after launch.

    September 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • steve

      LOL – that's EXACTLY the first thought that came to mind – KaBooM.................................

      September 14, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  19. DaveOK

    It's not rocket science NASA, you should just be doing... OH WAIT! It IS rocket science...

    September 14, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Programmr

      Too bad private industry produces is better at "rocket science" than NASA. The last time NASA designed and flew anything this big was back in the 1970's (i.e. the space shuttle). US private industry didn't sit still during the 80's, 90's, and 00's.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • svscnn

      gotta love a good pun.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  20. JP

    Just one more black hole to dump billions into with no payback whatsoever – other than to a minuscule number of space cowboys that want to go on space walks.

    Maybe the moon shots had some significance, but that was the last thing NASA has done with manned space flight that meant anything.

    Abandoning manned flight in favor of robotic missions would make infinitely more sense and produce a much larger bang for the buck – but of course that's the exact reason they'll never do it!

    September 14, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • SB

      JP, the solar system is awash in probes, landers, and telescopes designed and launched by NASA. I'm not sure where you got the impression that unmanned science-gathering vehicles are not a cornerstone of what NASA does, but it's not true.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
      • JP

        That's exactly what I'm saying.

        With the huge successes that NASA has had with it's robotic missions, if they had put all of the funding that they've wasted on manned missions into other robotic missions, there would be even more spectacular discoveries and accomplishments than there already are.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
      • urmomlol

        I don't trust robotic missions. I think that's how the cylons got started. We the robots need to stay here where we can keep an eye on them.

        Who knows what Voyager is up to now?

        September 14, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
      • SB

        JP, you seem to be assuming that SLS can only be used to launch manned vehicles, which would be wrong. Either that or you're just taking this article as an opportunity to lash out against manned space exploration in general.

        September 14, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Do you really think humans can stay on the Earth forever? We have to get out to space sometime, better now than later.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Sirren

      See where Affirmative Action Government delivered us? I can tell you that NASA should not have tried to run a space program with the lack of talent they employ. You want bang for your buck? Let private commercial industry run it like a business! "The best of the best of the best...with honors sir!" Instead of worrying about ethnic, gender, and age diversity! You think the Navy Seals got their job done on hiring practices? You want a nail pounded in…employ a hammer…you what Buck Rogers….employ people that have an IQ, not seat wamers!

      September 14, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
      • aerowrench

        Bravo, Sirren! You managed to squeeze Affirmative Action into this! Nice

        September 14, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
      • mickey1313

        so, if the private sector can do better, then why havent they? Big business is not capible of inovation and sucess. Inovation is stolen from smal thinkers and pulled and preverted by big business.

        September 14, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  21. JC

    Rockets? Why are we still talking about rockets? There has to be a better way. Someone earlier stated that no alternative exists in the near horizon, but really? How about a breakthrough? A game changer! How about not thinking that we "can't" do it and come up with something new. Maybe there is a simple way that someone already thought of or suggested but too many people said "that can't work!" Think, try, fail, try again.

    September 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Programmr

      Saying "there must be a better way" isn't proof that there is a better way.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • SB

      Your passion is admirable but the laws of physics are what they are. Rockets are used to lift things into space because rockets are the best way to lift things into space. It's fun to think about magic antigravity engines and space elevators but those technologies do not exist. Rockets do.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • mobetta

      There IS a betta way! BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY!

      September 14, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • DanE

      The Star Wars and related images of tiny fighters and ships that blast off from a planet and head into space are pure fiction. People forget the basic Newtonian laws of action and reaction, force and opposite force. The main purpose of a big dumb rocket is not simply to lift weight. Instead, its purpose is to accelerate that weight to a speed necessary to escape the pull of gravity and achieve earth orbit. For a spacecraft orbiting at 200 miles above the earth, that speed is more than 17,000 mph. To escape earth orbit and head for the Moon or Mars, it's higher still, about 24,000 mph.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  22. Major Matt Mason

    Not until NASA get's out of this,"Space belongs to us " mode and starts getting some private industry involved, will we finally get some big returns on investment to the average person here on earth. What happened to making perfect ball bearings and industrial crystals in zero -G? Once a profit can be made by manufacturing things in space, will we not mind shelling out the big bucks to send things up their.

    September 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • huxley

      Agreed. We need to stop dumping tax dollars into NASA and let private industry take over.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • StanCalif

      All of this "talk" was just propaganda while at "war" with the Soviet Union! While "we won", we actually lost big time!
      Today, our old foe is coming back to life with renewed vigor! Not with atomic bombs and ICBMs, not with bigger and better nuclear powered submarines, not with space ships to the moon (or anywhere else)! Today's Russia has a much more powerful weapon that we have ignored much too long. Good old natural gas and oil! Russia is today actively taking over the petroleum needs of Continental Europe. Putin knows this is much a much more powerful weapon than atom bombs! Unfortunately, Europe is taking his "generous" supplies with no regard for how Putin may use this in the future! All "contracts" to supply fuel are made with a state owned enterprise. At anytime, Putin can simply turn off the valves and make demands for whatever he wants! He has done it before, he will do it again! Atom bombs are just no threat to anyone, but gas and oil supplies are vital and necessary! Build all the windmills and solar farms you can, these will simply not replace petroleum as a primary source of energy for today's industrialized nations!

      September 14, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  23. Renee

    YAY! GO NASA dont worry about all those haterzz

    September 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Programmr

      Sure, just keep asking Congress for more funding to "speed up the schedule" at a time when the political reality is that a NASA funding increase is a really hard uphill battle. Sounds like a plan to me. :-(

      September 14, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  24. Programmr

    Please, let the politicians have the common sense to kill SLS. Amongst the likes of Atlas V, Delta IV, Falcon 9, and soon to be Falcon Heavy, the US doesn't need "yet another launch system".

    September 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • SB

      None of those launch systems has the lift capacity needed for the kind of missions SLS was designed for. The Falcon series probably will at some point, but that point is not now. So yeah, obviously a new launch system is needed.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
      • Mark

        The problem with SLS is that it has the lift needed to do long-range missions in one go, but does so at a cost that precludes building any of those pieces of mission hardware (save for the MPCV capsule) needed for any of those missions. No landers, no habs needed for long-range flight, etc. It also fails to learn anything from Apollo in terms of sustainability: crew doesn't need a massive uplift capacity and cargo doesn't need man-rating. More fundamentally, Apollo proved that low-rate-of-flight massive rockers are fiscally unsustainable. Large production line, lower-rate-of-flight, wider applicability rockets are sustainable. Finally, Apollo had no LEO infrastructure to take advantage of: we do now. Why is NASA even in the rocket building business? If it were serious about BEO, it would be spending on space vehicles that start from and return to the space station (and future stations), and that can be launched, unmanned on commodity launch vehicles. With crew launched to the station and returned from the station on commodity launch vehicles. Commodity being the key word. Developing this kind of market has a knock-on effect that it makes commercial tourist traffic cheaper, which increases flight volume, which further drops costs (iff it's being run on a pay-for-service basis and not a NASA-buys-hardware basis).

        On the other topic, SLS is also not here "now" either – and is no more "now" than Falcon Heavy – given track records, I'd put money on SpaceX beating NASA to a given launch mass target.

        In a Star Trek world where money is no longer an issue, SLS is great. In reality, it's a non-starter solution and a huge missed opportunity for NASA.

        September 15, 2011 at 1:35 am |
  25. drow

    +1

    September 14, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  26. Disappointed

    Let me see if I understand. After * 50 YEARS * and $18 Billion – the rocket will have 10-20% more thrust compared to the Saturn V... Sounds like we just need to bring back the Saturn V.

    September 14, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • SB

      No, it turns out you don't understand. For some reason you begin and end with total thrust, ignoring the fact that it gets there with fewer engines and newer materials and technology. There's also the small matter of rating a rocket by its lift capacity rather than its thrust. Although obviously thrust plays into that, you can't look at that number in isolation.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  27. John

    We did go to the moon right? Why does it sound like they are trying to invent a rocket? Take the old designs and update them with new technologies and materials. NASA seems to be starting from scratch.

    September 14, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Programmr

      Actually, the upper stage for the "heavy" version of SLS will be powered by the J-2X rocket engine, which is a direct descendant of the J-2 engine used in the Saturn V's second stage and third stage. The tanks on the core stage are derived from the shuttle's external tank. And, obviously, the solid rocket boosters are derived from the shuttle's SRB's. So, in a way, it is an updated Saturn V which incorporates more modern shuttle technologies in its design.

      Too bad it's too big, too expensive, and will fly too infrequently (once or twice per year). It will suck up so much of NASA's budget it will become NASA's launcher to nowhere since any payloads (like a lunar lander) will be unaffordable.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • drow

      "Take the old designs and update them with new technologies and materials"
      and... you get something like the SLS. ta-da! done.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • StanCalif

      Come on! "We" never landed any human beings on the moon! Remember, NASA mysteriously lost all the recordings of these trips! Every landing was filmed by JFK's Hollywood connections in New Mexico or Arizona! Also strange is the fact that our "moon rocks" and "soil samples" revealed nothing new! New Mexico is not the moon!
      During the Apollo missions, all that mattered was creating propaganda in our cold war with the USSR. If the USSR was so powerful, at that time, why did they not send anyone to the moon in response? Simple answer, it was (and still is) impossible!

      September 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  28. ksig162

    I thought Hakeem Olajuwon was the most powerful Rocket ever?

    September 14, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  29. Ethan

    Instead of getting involved in foreign conflicts, affairs, and wars, how about we spend money on technology, research, and education. These as well as manufacturing and the key aspect of Creativity are what made America as powerful as it is right now. We need to enforce a peaceful foreign policy, clear out the clutter in our government, and find ways to effectively spend money on our future as well as our technology. In reality, we can get really far in space. We can put a man on mars or on the edge of the universe, it's not impossible. We just need to get moving on crafting our future. Finally, I'd like to say we love you NASA!

    September 14, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Joe

      Agreed

      September 14, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • fimeilleur

      100% agreed.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  30. Fellows

    Sorry NASA, a day late and a dollar short. The time for announcing this kinda of news was 2 years ago. Only a completely jacked up program comes up with an "idea" after the existing way of getting to space is already retired. Location? Who knows......asteroid....maybe? Timeline? Sometime in the 2020's and 30s. Thank God Kennedy didn't set timelines and goals like that. I can't wait till Bolden is put out to pasture and is replaced with someone who still has a brain. That goes for his loser President as well.

    September 14, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • SB

      Fellows, you're a day late and a dollar short with your information. There WAS a plan in place and it got canceled. Google for "NASA Constellation". However, what we're getting instead is going to be even better, so on balance it all worked out.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
      • Fellows

        Oh, thanks, I never heard of Constellation. Oh wait, I do remember hearing something about that because I FREAKIN WORKED ON IT!!!!! Now its just scrapped and replaced with a weaker program, with no goals, timelines and with an even more fictional price tag. What makes you think NASA has just now figured out how to budget space programs correctly?

        September 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
      • fimeilleur

        Now you sound like a disgruntled employee... what's wrong? do you feel under appreciated?

        September 14, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
      • fimeilleur

        That was directed @Fellows.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
      • Fellows

        you sound like a disgruntled wannabe who'll never work on anything that anybody will care about.

        September 14, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • aerowrench

      Fellows... I bet you're a great quarterback on Monday morning!

      September 14, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • aerowrench

      Does the janitorial dept attend plans and scheduling meetings, Fellows?

      September 14, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  31. Kylarin

    NASA should just produce more Saturn V rockets, and if they ever need to lift something heavier than it's max payload, they always have the Saturn V-23(L) variant to go with. Why re-invent the wheel with this, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. They could likely save considerable R&D, not to mention D&I money on using what's already been used and studied. I feel it would also provide some inspiration back into our space program to revive such a storied and capable vehicle. My 2 cents...

    September 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • drow

      surprisingly, nobody knows how to build a Saturn V anymore. that knowledge and skillset is now lost, and would have to be redeveloped anyway. but with all the improvements in technology and materials available to us now. which results in the SLS. shocking, i know.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • JP

      Too bad that the idiots at NASA didn't bother to keep all the data that would be necessary to do that. I don't think they even have blueprints of the Sat-5 systems. Typical government bureaucracy.

      Whatta buncha hacks!

      September 14, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • MajorKong

      You are of course right. But when has NASA shown any good judgement over the last several decades? That's why there's no way for the US to get to the Space Station.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  32. ajk68

    This is just the Constellation Programs Ares V rocket repackaged.
    We cancelled that...It just shows NASA programs never really die.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  33. SLS-what

    This SLS is so lame. NASA is trying to sell Appolo with shuttle solid rocket boosters yet again.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  34. Mark

    The 60's called.
    They want their rocket back.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Joe

      Lol, when are we going to invest in some new technologies and discovery's?

      September 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • SB

      The 60s? Oh, I see. You're one of those people who stop at how it looks and give no thought whatsoever to its actual design, function, capabilities, composition, etc.

      Well, sure; on the level at which we're drawing shapes with crayons to convey ideas you might easily compare SLS to a rocket from the 60s. I mean, it's not like it has wings or shiny things sticking out of it that look like they came from a Star Trek movie.

      However, reality called and wants to point out that there are excellent reasons for using a rocket & capsule design. You see, the laws of physics have not changed since Apollo. And so a capsule is still an excellent shape for plunging through an atmosphere without breaking up or burning to a crisp, and a big chemical rocket is still the best way to launch a vehicle into space.

      When you get around to discovering some new physics that makes rockets obsolete, do be sure to share that discovery with the rest of the world so that NASA can build a shape that excites you more.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
      • Fellows

        You're right, 40 years later, and we're now able to add a 4th person to the capsule, and fly by an asteroid rather than land on the freakin moon. Sounds like the same 60's tech to me.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
      • SB

        That's because you're not a smart person, Fellows. Warp drive isn't real. I'm sorry but it's not.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
      • Mark

        Yup.
        It looks like a rocket.
        NASA was unable to discover new physics that makes rockets obsolete.
        So they're back to the 60's. But that was a very big post :)

        September 14, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
      • SB

        You're not very good at trolling but you are excellent at making yourself look like a primary school dropout. Kudos.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
      • Mark

        Maybe, but you were unable to counter my points and I'm not name calling either so I actually look intellectuality superior. :)
        I'm holding in my hand a Droid X2.
        I'm not impressed with NASA.

        Google and Motorola can stomp a Star Trek communicator.
        NASA is proud to unveil.... a 60's style rocket. LOL

        September 14, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
      • SB2

        There is the ion rocket designed by Franklin Chang Diaz, a former astronaut. Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) . Just increase an order of magnitude for the budget and off we go.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
      • SB

        If you actually had a point I would be happy to counter it. So far all you've done is make a lot of people /facepalm and giggle at your posts.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
      • Mark

        My point is that NASA didn't make much progress.
        You were unable to counter that, but made big posts and called me names. LOL
        You are the only one that seems to disagree with me :)

        NASA needs major funding to remain relevant.
        This rocket, isn't. :)

        September 14, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
      • mobetta

        The ion rocket is good for sustained thrust in deep space – not for launch to insertion into escape velocity. The thrust of an ion rocket would be low – but the sustained acceleration would get the payload to its destination much more quickly than a one-time punch.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
      • SB

        Mark, that is exactly the "point" which was dispelled by the first post. Just because it has the same shape as an old rocket doesn't make it old technology. Of course it LOOKS like a rocket. What else would a rocket look like? But your assumption that this is somehow "60s technology" is just way way wrong.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
      • SB

        In any case, it's obvious that you're just trolling. My responses are more for the sake of anyone who might mistake your posts for an actual thought on the subject of the SLS.

        September 14, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
      • Mark

        It's a rocket.
        After 50 years of technological advances and evolution.
        As much as I hate Apple, something tells me if they were running this program they wouldn't be unveiling "The most powerful rocket ever!"

        It shouldn't look like a rocket, be a rocket, or be a 2011 version of a rocket.
        After half a century we should be beyond rockets.
        Sure cars are still cars and planes are still planes, but they have proven to be effective at what they do.
        The rocket hasn't taken man beyond our moon.
        If we can visit the moon and come back in the 70's, we are far behind schedule for space exploration. (We should have at least been to Mars and back by now even with current technology that already exists)

        But no.
        At least we have the most powerful rocket ever. :)

        September 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Jack

      What is it you're basing your idea of NASA's lack of advancement on? The last 800,000 years? I'm certain the last 50 years of space technology advancement has been accelerating at a more rapid pace than the hundreds of thousands of years before the 60's. 50 years is nothing, your life span is nothing on the timeline of our journey from monkeys to space ships.

      September 14, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
      • Mark

        I'm basing it on how everything else has advanced in the last 20. (Or even 10) years.

        September 14, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • poopmasterflex

      Your Droid X2 comment is ignant foo how do you think all the support technologies and infrastructure was developed to make smart phones possible there are so many different things developed over the last several decades to make them possible... all the tech for the sats/ GPS shit... all the circuitries and doohikies and all that other stuff and what not and the internets... mostly tubes and what not the miltary/NASA reserarches did stuff with... dont be dumb and don't do drugs (at least not the bad ones) yuck yuck ur dum bumblie boo

      September 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
      • poopmasterflex

        google and motorola didn't come up with all that stuff unhuh I knows I'm right

        September 14, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
      • Mark

        Huh? LOL

        September 14, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • poopmasterflex

      Like I said: Breath and squeeze; master of the flexing of poop UMPH

      September 15, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  35. drow

    NASA is one of the best and greatest endeavours of the US. For decades, NASA has pushed the boundaries of knowledge, science, technology, and our understanding of our world and universe, and for decades our society has reaped the considerable dividends of those investments. It deserves more support than it gets. It deserves more funding that what we waste in a week fighting people who would not be our enemy, if we followed the golden rule more often. It deserves more funding than what we're about to waste on yet another election cycle. It deserves more funding than what we, as a society, spend on advertising tobacco products which kill us.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • AgentJ

      Well Said!

      September 14, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
      • Pablo

        I agree!!!!

        September 14, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • AgentJ

      With all the massive waste with Defense and Entitlement spending, you think it would make a difference to try and recoup the 0.6% of the annual Federal budget spent on NASA?

      Guess what that savings would be used for? More wasteful Defense and Entitlement spending....

      September 14, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
      • AgentJ

        Woops, meant to post that at Paul!

        September 14, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • vlad

      ummm we don't spend anything on advertising for tobacco. the tobacco companies do, and they would not bring in any profits if they gave it all to nasa....

      September 14, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
      • drow

        is it part of the GDP? do we allow it to happen by buying the products? yes, it is certainly part of what we spend, just not part of what we're taxed.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  36. Paul Willson

    Congress should a defund then disband NASA. A wawste of money. Huinakind should stay on earth

    September 14, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • IDWizzard

      Simple question in response. And please give it a real, considerate answer.

      Why?

      September 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
      • Sean

        Because that’s what Jebus would want.

        September 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Magnus

      The voice of willful ignorance is heard from. I really can't stand this streak of no-nothingism that comes from the right wing wackos. If it were up to people like you Columbus would never have discovered America.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
      • Fellows

        If were up to Left Wing Wackos, Columbus wouldn't have been allowed to find America because the money would have funded welfare babies instead.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
      • mobetta

        well said, Fellows!!!!

        September 14, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • SB

      Yeah! 'Cause learnin' stuff never helped no one anyhow! Stupid science!

      That's what I hear when I read tragically ignorant posts like yours. That, and banjo music.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Karl

      People like you caused the Dark Ages. Fool.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Fellows

      Why can't we just roam the earth grunting and living in caves like back in the day? Technology is so overrated.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • AgentJ

      With all the massive waste with Defense and Entitlement spending, you think it would make a difference to try and recoup the 0.6% of the annual Federal budget spent on NASA?

      Guess what that savings would be used for? More wasteful Defense and Entitlement spending....

      September 14, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Horizons

      I agree, 15% in poverty, 50 million without proper healthcare, the heck with mars..we need to look after the american citizens first before doing anything else right now, im sure if your a wealthy teaparty nut you dont care, but we have got to get a priorities right, we need to stop this "looking after myself" mindset and start uniting as a nation otherwise america will become just a big slave camp for the poor and middle class without the safetynet we all deserve.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
      • AgentJ

        The total amount spent on NASA for a year is less than the cost providing AC in the US Military tents in Iraq and Afghanistan for the same period. Considering that, I think you are right when you say we need to get our priorities straight.

        Defunding NASA, and other scientific research, doesn't do anything but decrease the quality of life of future generations.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
      • Fellows

        I'm sure you'd rather use that money to give Ipad's to welfare babies. So you think if we spend enough money, we'll have less people living in poverty? Keep living in niaveland. Its called survival of the fittest. Let the weak and unproductive live off some other country's taxes, and let the productive of this country do their job.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
      • mobetta

        Are you even aware that those guidelines that place people in "poverty" don't include income from food stamps, welfare fraud (wait, that's redundant), ADC, etc etc etc. Estimates place the amount spent by those in "poverty" at TWICE what they get in income – and that doesn't include them running up their credit card balances and then hitting bankruptcy. WOnder how they do that? Can you say "entitlements"???

        September 14, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Marc Benarrous

      you must ne one of those people who think we faked the moon landings too. get a clue moron. I hope the rockets are used to send probes to some of the earthlike planets we heard about earlier. That way we can get to the debate of whether or not the aliens we find have souls, if a "god" made them etc...what a renaissance to come.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • RD374

      The type of ignorant comment one would expect from a person who spells humankind as “huinakind”

      September 14, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Joe

      So our species is condemned to never advance and die on this planet if lets say the sun goes supernova, or an asteroid hits us or pollution destroys everything or we nuke ourselves. If no one ever ventured out and explored we all wouldn't be here because Christopher Columbus wouldn't have sailed to the Americas because everyone thought the earth was flat!

      September 14, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Macs

      Yeah, if man was meant to fly, he'd have wings. It's all sorcery and witchcraft!! Everyone already knows the Earth is flat and the Moon is made of cheese. hehe

      September 14, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • fimeilleur

      Could have put an extra 50$ in your education... spelling lessons?

      September 14, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  37. Gary S.

    I love NASA and hope our space program becomes self reliable again but seriously..."We want 18 Billion but if our budget is cut we can do it cheaper"? Isn't that like saying we're padding our estimates? That's what put NASA in it's current financial predicament in the first place.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Chris

      Its 16 billion for a 6 year project....not 500 billion for a one time stimulus. TONS have come from space exploration and I think its worth pursuing.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • AgentJ

      It will probably cost more in the end, so its not really padding. I can't think of one government project (NASA or otherwise) that has come in under the time and budget demanded by congress.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  38. wmcritter

    At some point in time, the Earth will no longer be habitable by humans. That is a known fact and can't be disputed. What we don't know is when that will happen. Will it be 4 billion years from now when the sun burns out? Will it be 100 million years from now when some cataclysm happens? Or will it be next year when a previously unknown massive asteroid slams into the planet? We just don't know. We do know it will happen, and we do know that we can develop the technology to get off Earth and survive. Space exploration is not a luxury, it is the key to human survival. Do you want to be the one that tells your children "sorry you are going to die when the asteroid hits, but our generation was too lazy and cheap to do anything about it"?

    It is not a question of "if" it is a matter of "when" the Earth will not be habitable. Hopefully, that day won't come for millions of years, but it could be tomorrow. The only logical course of action is to spread out into the universe as fast as we can to ensure the survival of the species.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • U Kidding?

      Pay billions more in the next several years so that humanity may be able to get off a dying Earth a million or a hundred million years from now?
      I'd vote a hard "no." If they want to live then, let them figure it out. It will be eons beyond my caring (which I assuredly don't do even right now).

      September 14, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
      • AgentJ

        Except, it may not be a million years from now. It may be 100 years from now. Or do you not care about your grandchildren?
        I can't understand how people can be so self-absorbed that they would not incur the SLIGHTEST inconvenience to insure the survival of Humanity itself.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  39. Joseph D

    The height of the Saturn V was 360 feet.. not 300 as stated in the article

    September 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • elcubano

      The Saturn V was 360 feet WITH the lunar module and command module upper stage. The actual height of the Saturn V booster was about 250 ft......

      September 14, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • lled2

      My booster is bigger then your booster.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  40. Edward

    Here is an idea. How much would it cost to upgrade the Atlas or Delta launch systems to make them human rated? Use them to get crew and cargo to and from the ISS. Use the Heavy lift version to go to the moon or beyond.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  41. hammerdsteel

    as if NASA thinks 18 billion sounds rather "on the cheap", which it does considering the huge other amounts wasted on useless wars, the concept does seem to resemble only an old Saturn V rocket with two of the re-usable Space Shuttle tanks strpped on its sides. Well, those Space Shuttle rockets were designed on the same ideas as cheap Chinese fireworks, so going to that way of reusing old parts might be a solution. Only look for a lot of asternutz to be killed due to dud rockets blowing uo on the launch pad while experimentation is going on.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • AgentJ

      They are not using the old Boosters and Engines, just the designs. Rebuilding new ones with updated materials.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  42. TripleA

    GO for it NASA!

    September 14, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  43. FauxNews

    How lame, looks like a Saturn-V with shuttle solid fuel tanks strapped on. They should look at Van Braun's Nova design.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • VoiceofReason

      The Nova? Do you REALLY think that technology hasnt improved since 1959? Werner VonBraun was a very bright man, no question about that – but good grief the guy's been dead for almost half a century! How about this: My phone has more computing power than was available to ALL of NASA when the 'Nova' rocket was concieved. Sorry – but welcome to the 21st century.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  44. Jimbob

    18 Billion for something you are only going to use once or twice a year! WTF? Space elevator or bust baby!

    September 14, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • ncb1010

      if we had a material strong and light enough to make a space elevator, we could just as well build reusable spacecraft that require very little thrust because they weigh so little(compared to current systems).

      September 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • kinergarten teacher

      Jimbob, it's only going to be used ONCE, not Once a Year. Ain't coming back. And the 18 billion is for the PowerPoint Presentation. Each new one is extra. And its only going up 200 miles, not to Mars which is a bit further away than that.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
      • AgentJ

        You think its not coming back because it will fall over 'the edge of the world'?

        September 14, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
      • VoiceofReason

        Actually the article says that the price tag is for the design, the first launch, and part of the second and third launches. At some point there will be a realistic price per launch plus price per ton, but it wont be anywhere near $18B.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  45. Paul

    think if instead of wasting $2 trillions in Iraq, we'd invested into space exploration and oil free technology.
    Now we'd have a rocket flying toward Mars and electric cars everywhere with clean energy.

    Why is is to so that idiot and apes always get their way?

    let's hope GP wont win the WH, otherwise they scrap the entire NASA just to please some teabaggers

    September 14, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Rich

      "Why is is to so that idiot and apes always get their way?"

      My favorite sentence of the day!

      September 14, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
      • Rick

        Let's not get sidetracked, stick to the topic at hand, whick is NASA. Not the typo!

        September 14, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • mobetta

      If you voted for Obama in 2008 to prove you're not a racist, we all hope you'll vote for someone – anybody – else in 2012 to prove you're not an idiot.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  46. hammerdsteel

    all this is for the comic book genre. This country is FLAT BROKE now so this is all a figment of some wild imagination!!!

    September 14, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  47. Alan

    Build it and launch it! We need this program. Pull 18 Billion from something useless like the president's jobs bill (aptly renamed from the president's stimulus package, as originally presented). This will come back to us in new jobs, technology, and educational inspiration!

    September 14, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • AgentJ

      True.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  48. David Bowman

    ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE!

    September 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • urmomlol

      ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US!

      September 14, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • BOB

      DAVE

      NASA has got ten years back pay waiting for you!

      September 14, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  49. Jocko

    This stuff is the most important thing we could be spending money on as human beings. there is nothing on earth that is more important as a species.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • JimVA

      Agree, except maybe for reproduction. :-)

      September 14, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
      • Fred T

        I think we have the reproduction thing down a little too well.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • AgentJ

      Agreed.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  50. KawiMan

    They're preparing to film the sequel to Apollo 18 – "Apollo 19".

    September 14, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • petercha

      Kawi, there was no Apollo 18. The last manned mission to the moon was Apollo 17. Look it up.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
      • Rich

        Apollo 18 is a scifi flick in theaters now.

        September 14, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • urmomlol

      That's just what they want you to think! The truth is, they secretly went back to the moon again, but they found monsters there. There's a documentary about it...do a little research, man!

      September 14, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • IDWizzard

      Yep, they lit the candle on Apollo 18 and no one noticed. Right... Must have used that memory eraser thing from Men In Black, a really big one.

      There were a total of 20 planned. 18 is in the Space Center in Florida. 19 was in pieces and scrapped and 20 was never built. At least I think that's the way it was...

      September 14, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  51. Major Matt Mason

    When is NASA going to give up it's "private club" mentality and start to team up with private industry to manufacture things in space. Like the perfect ball bearings we always heard about.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • petercha

      Actually, Major, NASA has at least in part given up the "private club" mentality you speak of. For example, they rent some of their launch facilities at the Cape to private companies. Also, Major, I'd like to say Thank You for your service in the American (if you are from America, that is) armed forces, whatever branch you may be in.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
      • Rich

        Major might have been or is still in the service but Major Matt Mason was an action figure toy from the 1960's.

        September 14, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
      • GI Joe

        Major Matt mason was a toy action figure in the mid 60s.

        September 14, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Paul

      none can do this ... only NASA can, give this to a private company and it will fail, go out of business and the knowledge lost.
      At NASA at least the knowledge is not lost.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • AgentJ

      Haven't you been paying attention? Space-X will be the soul provider of LEO Transport for NASA, once they complete their platform. This craft is for actual exploration, to the Moon or beyond.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  52. Derek

    This is exactly the kind of research that will lead America's technology to the top again. For those of you who don't think so, consider what America is really good at : innovation and enterprise... – We invent stuff, we are creative, we are intelligent.

    The rest of the World will follow us if we can get back to the Moon, and maybe start some mining processes. Think what Helium-3 and other precious minerals ( that China isn't selling any more of ) would do for our economy.

    Bring on the next space race!

    September 14, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • petercha

      Good point, Derek!

      September 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
      • Derek

        Thanks Peter! – And may I say that it's refreshing to converse with a Tea Partier. – I may have different views ( left/center ), but that doesn't mean we can't agree on some things. Cheers :)

        September 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Harvey

      Agreed, although the way things look now helium 3 is about the only thing that could be brought back to earth commercially. When fusion power generation comes on line, it will be the fuel of choice. If the United States does not make the effort to become the world's main supplier, we will bunged again; just like we are over oil now.

      I believe other materials mined up there will not be brought back to earth, but will be used to build infrastructure up there.

      The place I would like to own 200 years in the future would be Saturn's moon Titan with its lakes of hydrocarbons. Again the resources would not be brought back to earth; but would be used in the expanding economy in space.

      Once we figure out how to make a buck up there; it will be "Mars or Bust". Look at the communication satellites now, the only reason they are up there is someone is making a buck off of them.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  53. TheWalrus13

    I think this is a good idea, but they have to do it right. NASA needs to understand that they are a government luxury and not a necessity in these troubled economic times. If they plan to make this rocket, they had better not cut corners due to budgetary constraints and optimistic deadlines, otherwise astronaut's lives could be in danger.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  54. Spacebob

    So much negativity here...

    September 14, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  55. ssteve

    Wow, what about using that money for people that need it...

    September 14, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • urmomlol

      What about my needs? Huh?? I need big rockets!

      September 14, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
      • mamba

        its not what my country can do for you! its what you can do for your country, did you think my gov will help everybody just because you say it! grown up!

        September 14, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • IDWizzard

      You mean like the engineers that will design it, the manufacturers that will build it, the astronauts that will fly it, the support teams that will support it, the resturant owners that will feed all these people, the gas stations attendees that fill up their cars getting to work, the metal supply people that work with all of them for the engines, structures, cars, etc., the people that....

      Do you mean those people?

      September 14, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
      • AgentJ

        Exactly.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • SB

      It is being spent on people who need it. The human race must always strive to push the boundaries of science, technology and exploration.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Hugo

      Well, Steve, with research is valuable and which isn't? Was research into the electron a century ago, valuable? How valuable? How could someone tell ahead of time?

      September 14, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Mike

      THIS argument again??

      NASA's consumes a whopping 0.5% of the federal budget.

      I suggest you start paying attention to the BIG-eaters, most of whom create little-to-no value for this country, instead.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • AgentJ

      The boon to 'the people that need it', that originated from basic science research, is massive!

      Let's say someone had taken the money that Roentgen was spending on vacuum tube research, in order to give it to 'people that need it'. The X-Ray, which was a result of that research, may not have been discovered. How many Millions of people would have died that could have been saved with X-ray diagnosis?

      To starve scientific research and study, is to harm our children (and eventually, the entire species).

      September 14, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  56. urmomlol

    Weren't we supposed to be walking around in silver jumpsuits and have flying cars and bases on Mars by now? At least the space shuttle looked like something out of Star Wars. This seems like a step backward; I feel cheated.

    Well, I suppose I could go buy a silver jumpsuit, at least.

    September 14, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • SB

      How many times do you plan to post the same nonsense? The space shuttle couldn't leave orbit. How it "looks" means nothing.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • urmomlol

      Look, it's not rocket science. Let me break it down for you:

      Earth is the only place anything interesting happens anyway. Space is empty. That's why they call it "space." Otherwise they'd call it "stuff."

      So, to summarize: in my professional opinion, I believe our main priority should be looking cool while we fly around Earth. That is all.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Harvey

      The first maned flight to Mars was originally planned for 1986. Minor things, such as the Vietnam War and general government inefficiency got in the way.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  57. getsomecommonsense

    Use the $ 18 Billion (always UNDERestimated), plus the countless Billions that we spent for a space station that is falling, on alternative fuels/technology, etc here on our own Earth. What do we have to show so far? – Tang and Velcr – great. I'm not saying we shouldn't spend on space exploration – just not NOW – when we are trying to get out of a $14.7 TRILLION hole.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • EricLr

      Most powerful rocket ever, my butt. This thing is barely half as powerful as a Saturn V. Does anyone at CNN even know how to read?

      September 14, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
      • Rocket Scientist

        From the NASA site:

        SLS Initial Lift Capability;
        At liftoff, has 8.4 million pounds of thrust.

        SLS Evolved Lift Capability;
        At liftoff, has 9.2 million pounds of thrust.

        The Saturn V had, at liftoff, a thrust of roughly 7.5 million pounds. The above configurations will have 12 and 23 percent more thrust than the Saturn V respectively.

        I can teach you to read: pay attention:

        See Spot. See Spot run. Run, Spot, run...

        September 14, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • urmomlol

      Dude, Velcro is awesome!

      September 14, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • petercha

      All the money that is spent on the Space Program IS spent here on Earth. All the people who build the rockets and launch them work here on Earth, plus all those who support them in sub-contracting roles. And we've gotten FAR more than just velcro. Check NASA's web site for a list of technologies that were originally developed for the space program – there are tons of them, many of them life-saving technologies.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • JimVA

      Well an old geezer like me remembers that at the height of the Apollo program we were enggaed in a useless war, had lots of social problems, and as a percentage of GDP our debt wasn't too far off from today. I even remeber a guy being interviewed on TV as Apollo 11 took off and saying that we would have better spent the money on needy people here on Earth. Well, he was wrong, and a lot more was developed than Tang and Velcro. What would you rather waste money on: 1) a useless war, 2) endless entitlements, 3) Wall Street bailouts, or 4) an ambitious space program. I'll take option 4 any day. It's the only thing that would endure, and now is the time we need it economically.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
      • AgentJ

        Yes, Well Said!

        September 14, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
      • Geezersformarscolonization.org

        Useless wars are the only enduring thing around here these days.

        September 14, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • George

      How about LEDs, artificial limbs, better car tires, chemical detection, fire-resistant materials, freeze drying, water purification, solar energy, improved mine and food safety? You, sir, are an idiot.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Ken

      Great question! Sum up all of the money we have spent in the past 50 years and ponder, would all of that the money served the people a whole lot better, or maybe our taxes could be lower, which means more money in our pockets. Isn't that what we all could use more of, which would also help the economy. Lets get back to our basic needs people!

      September 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Mike

      Go over to Discover Magazine's site, search for the article "Wait, how big is NASA’s budget again?" and see if you can even *find* NASA's budget on the chart. A microscope might help.

      Now, perhaps you should start paying attention to the BIG items in that chart, a good many of which do little-to-nothing to create value for this country.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Hugo

      The nick "getsomecommonsense" pretty much tells it all. Using common sense, explain electrons and how they relate to modern computers, like the one you are using. (Good luck with that and don't waste your time.)

      September 14, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Programmr

      Don't forget about weather satellites, communications satellites, GPS satellites, and etc. Without NASA paving the way, much of the modern world conveniences we all enjoy simply wouldn't be here.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • AgentJ

      Wrong! Hardly countless billions. About 0.6% of the Federal budget. One of the smallest federal programs there is.
      We spent more on Air Conditioning Tents in Iraq and Afghanistan last year than on NASA's entire budget.

      Why don't you go after actual waste than programs that better the human condition?

      September 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  58. RalphS

    Its unfortunate that the shuttle program didn't leave us with a stepping stone to deep space exploration. This looks well and good, but in reality It only resembles a stepped up Saturn V. Not the way to go if we really intend to get to Mars and beyond. Ahh, the Q33-explosive space modulator. Much better name!

    September 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • petercha

      Actually, it might leave us such a stepping stone. I am assuming that the SLS, or at least the Orion portion of it, will be able to dock with the ISS. If so, it may be able to be used to assemble inter-planetary rockets in orbit.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  59. Coug9

    We NEED inspiration in this country! The Apollo program inspired our citizens, and demonstrated our ability as a nation to reach for goals that in the past seemed unattainable. I am not for useless spending, but I do not see this as a useless venture. Likely, the program will cost much more than NASA's target of $18 billion, as most govt. programs tend to do (look at the shuttle program's initial projected costs compared to its actual cost). But if this program leads to tech advancements and inspires an entire generation of American's to become educated in sciences and math.........I for one think that it would be hard to put a price tag on that.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • petercha

      Amen, Coug9. Plus this program will employ tons of people. It sure beats wasting the money on welfare, etc.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
      • Coug9

        Agreed. Instead of paying tons of people unemployment, who get no work done, lets put them to work actually doing something. Much better deal........ I'm sure we can find something for them to do. Not saying I want some guy off the street building MY rocket.......but there is always something that can be worked on or built.
        I just think we need something to inspire folks. Let's make a goal of getting to Mars, and then commit to it. Having a goal like this may help to minimize the animosity going around.

        September 14, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • urmomlol

      Well, you see, the space shuttle had wings and stuff, which made it look awesome. Couldn't they at least add a few laser cannons to give the impression that we're getting better at this?

      September 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  60. urmomlol

    This seems pretty lame compared to the space shuttle...

    September 14, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • SB

      This will enable us to leave Earth orbit, which the shuttle could not do. How is that "lame"?

      September 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
      • JimVA

        No firey landings.

        September 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
      • Omen

        It's ugly looking. How about first build a base in the moon then make a shuttle there and take it to wherever like mars and etc.sence the moons orbit is not ass bad as earth,no?

        September 14, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  61. Fred

    Meanwhile, we'll spend 25 times as much to get low paying jobs for unmotivated, uneducated people. Yeah, our priorities are unimpeachable.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  62. william fitzwater

    It would been wiser to use RS68 main engines from the Delta but space shuttle main engines are complex . why use something thats not as reliable ? In this case is it a expendable booster if so the shuttle main engines are a poor choice .

    September 14, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Dummy

      The RS-68 engine is not a man-rated engine. The space-shuttle main engine is man-rated. The steps required to man-rate an engine are numerous and expensive. How many shuttle main engines have failed? Zero. You can't get better than a 100% success ls rate in terms of reliability. The testing on the space shuttle main engine has far-surpassed the RS-68 engine and there is no lingering question about the performance drop-off that was experienced in the RS-68A program. With that said, NASA should really pursue a hydrocarbon engine option for this vehicle, but obviously that might require NASA to go out and pay their partners in industry to learn something new. NASA doesn't design or build these engines, private aerospace companies do.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  63. columbus

    If we elect a tea party president we won't need all that horsepower, all we have to do is push the rocket off the "edge".

    September 14, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • petercha

      Hate much, columbus?

      September 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
      • progstat

        That is an apt description of the tea party's collective intelligence. God bless America.

        September 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
      • petercha

        It is far from apt, progstat. I am a Tea Partier, and my I.Q. is over 140. So are many others. You and the original poster should consider not being arrogant.

        September 14, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
      • Hugo

        If your IQ is over 140, how about showing it with the posts?

        September 14, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
      • klarg

        Not hate, disgust.

        September 14, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Rocket Scientist

      But, most Tea Partiers will be Raptured to, well, a lot farther than Mars before this lift system is built, so's might as well save the money. Presumeably won't be taking anything material, though.

      Although, I guess the Antichrist could sail off to the red planet before the Armageddon half-time show begins, but that isn't mentioned in the cut and paste MS Word prophetic exegesis that Darby concocted.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  64. The Shadow

    Any true breakthrough would involve antimatter injectors and dilithium crystals.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  65. petercha

    Hope they actually do it by 2017. They might be able to use some of the information they developed for the Constellation program.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  66. JimVA

    It's about time we get back to investing in something great like this project, instead of waloowing in the back water of science and space and reminice about old days of glory. The price tag is a pitance compared to the money we waste on foreign wars and giveways to citizens and foreigners alike. If we've going to run up debt, at least spend it on something useful and great like this rocket. better yet, eliminate the debt and only spend on this stuff.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  67. MAK

    What a waste of money. Just imagine what could have been done for mankind to ease their basic problems from 18 billion dollars. Basic things for living like Food and Water.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • petercha

      I have a question, MAK – since you seem to be so concerned about basic needs (for the poor, presumably), how much have YOU given to charity?

      September 14, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
      • SDN

        Peter: You seem to have a remarkable talent for interjecting personal criticism into any conversation, no matter how unrelated your comments may be. Maybe 'talent' is a bit generous.

        September 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
      • petercha

        And how is my statement personal criticism, SDN? I simply asked how much he (or she) gave to charity – a perfectly valid question, given his (or her) post.

        September 14, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
      • MAK

        My Dear (petercha), I would not have posted this concern if was not really concerned for the value of life of any human being. And If I am concerned that means I do take care of it where i can and when i can. I wish i had 18 billion dollars :). There should be priorities according to basic moral values. I am sure you will buy the bread for yourself first and then will try to get an expensive clothing and not the other opposite way. Treat any other human being just like you are in his/her position. I hope you wont get into their position and then realize that if you could have got just few hundred dollars out of those billions.

        September 14, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
      • Hugo

        Peter, while you raise a good point, how about exercising that 140+ IQ of yours and attack the argument instead of the person? 140+ IQ should be able to do that rather easily, IMHO. I'll give an example.

        Yes, we could spend the money on food. But what do we get? What if we spend the money on research and development. Then what do we get? I don't know. Let's consider the investment that DARPA made with DARPAnet. Did that pay off? If you don't think so, how about turning off your connection to the DARPAnet (now called the Internet?)

        Research pays off in ways we don't yet understand.

        September 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
      • JimVA

        I too am concerned about my fellow human beings, mostly of their children and my own children, who will grow up with no inspiration, opportunity, or purpose in life other than to scrape for a few pieces of bread. No expensive clothing, but also no meaningful existence, no inspriation to propel numankind to new heights in space, science, and culture, and no advnaced civilization. Just lots of subsidized bread.

        September 14, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
      • MAK

        @Hugo. Exploration/Research on Earth – Understandable. How Space Research/Exploration has benefited us? And let me bring the subject back again, we are talking about this useless rocket that wont help us anyway. It wont find us sources of energy etc.

        September 14, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
      • Hugo

        MAK, thanks for answering. How do you know where it will lead? Let's just look at the moon. Does it really have all that Helium 3? If so, can we find a way to economically mine it? I don't know. Do you?

        If so, there's a great start on solving some "here on Earth" energy problems.

        This is just a single avenue.

        What about the science research done in space (zero gravity)? Where will that lead? I don't know.

        If I asked you in 1897 where the discovery of the electron would bring us, would you know? If you wouldn't know, how do you know where space research will lead?

        September 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Canadian

      Imagine where your government and country would be if someone who shall remain nameless didn't waste Billions of dollars on a certain Middle Eastern Country that starts with "I" and ends in "Q".....

      18 Billion?? Your previous President pissed that away on a regular basis.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
      • petercha

        This from a Canadian? Let's see here, between our two countries, which has a MUCH higher GDP? Hmmmm......

        September 14, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Hugo

      What have we accomplished by just spending $18B on food and water? When the money is gone, then what? Where do we get more? How about investing the money instead? Research is one place. However, if you want to change society, how about instead investing in micro loans to women who want to start businesses in Africa? Now we have empowered women and we have stimulated the local economy. Empowering women lowers the birth rate and we have too many people already.

      But I don't think we can do just that an be effective? We also should advance our understanding of science. Look where an understanding of the electron brought us! We have computers in our homes and we have the Internet. We don't have all this without an understanding of the electron. (Led to transistors, which led to integrated circuits which led to computers inexpensive and small enough for homes.)

      September 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • AgentJ

      We spent $20 Billion on Air Conditioning tents in Iraq and Afganistan last year. Imagine how much food and water that could have bought? (not to mention lives saved for not having invaded those countries in the first place).

      You need to get YOUR priorities in order, and go after true wastefulness, instead of research that will benefit your children, the United States, and Humanity itself.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • CelticHunter7

      What $18 Billion dollars will cost in 2011. Divide the breakdown by six (6) years development until deployment in 2017.

      One Billion Dollars = 48 hours of WAR in IRAQ and AFGHANISTAN. $18 Billion x 48 Hours = 864 Hours = 36 Days. Divided by (6) years development costs and deployed in 2017 = 6 Days.

      One Billion Dollars = 20 DAYS worth of sales for ALL VIDEO GAMES. $18 Billion x 20 Days = 360 Days. Divided by (6) years development costs and deployed in 2017 = 60 Days.

      One Billion Dollars = $59.94 per AMERICAN. $18 Billion x $59.94 = $1,078.92. Divided by (6) years development costs and deployed in 2017 = $179.82

      Seems like a good investment to me.

      September 14, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  68. Leafonthewind

    "There's lots that's new . . . " Dear CNN.com, please hire someone literate to do your science reporting. Thank you very much.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  69. kingofjews

    NO ONE CAN GO TO THE MOON Period.
    no rocket can carry that gas,plus there is radiations 'wake up everybody.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • paxloki

      take a walk to the edge of the earth, then take one small step. or one giant leap

      September 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Tom

      You don't need "gas" to get to the moon; you just need enough fuel to leave Earth orbit. Also, "plus there is radiations"... someone needs to wake up and go to school.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • petercha

      News flash, Kingofjews – we've already been there. Several times. Google NASA's Apollo program.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Dan

      Well, you know, you're simply wrong about that.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • JimVA

      Radiations? Are those like "vapors" or something?

      September 14, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • suzaku

      got some names for you,,,

      Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin! Duh!

      September 14, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Hugo

      Why don't you and your buddies build a really strong telescope and aim it at the Sea of Tranquility (et al) and see if you show there's nothing left behind by humans?

      September 14, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Phoenix59

      You aren't one of those people who claims the moon landings were staged, are you? Moron.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Programmr

      You're wrong. You obviously don't have the knowledge to "do the math" yourself, or you'd know that it is possible. In fact, you need a rocket about the size of the Saturn V to launch a LEM and CSM to the moon. And yes, I've done the math. My degree in Aerospace Engineering required it.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • AgentJ

      Sorry, but you are a straight-up idiot.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  70. Cj

    They plan the most powerful rocket ever....right until they cancel the program. I have ZERO faith in the government's ability to allow NASA to follow through on a project that requires more than 4 years to develop.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • JimVA

      Sad, but very possible.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  71. Davey Jones

    10% more thrust? Isn't that like developing a car that can go 55 mph instead of 50 mph? I'd be more interested in seeing money go toward a new type of propulsion system. How will they ever have enough fuel to get to Mars and back using the current system?

    September 14, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • SB

      Davey, there is no "new propulsion system" for getting off the ground in the first place. Electric (ion) drives are great for when you're already in space, but only chemical rockets produce enough thrust "all at once" for that initial liftoff. There is no substitute for that, even on the horizon of possibilities.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
      • Fellows

        Why don't they just invent a teleportation device? Why chemical rockets?

        September 14, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Robert

      Dr Jones, what type of drive system are you working on.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Brian

      Dave, once you get out of Earths gravitational pull and on the right trajectory, you don't need any propulsion system at all besides stuff for minor course correction, which can probably be powered from solar energy.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Cj

      Thrust doesn't matter...its pounds to orbit that matters. The shuttle coud put up about 50K lbs into orbit whereas the Saturn could put up 200K MORE than that. So this new rocket will be able to put even more into orbit...which means fewer trips, less cost, more efficency, etc.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Davey Jones

      Thanks for the replies. Given the distance between Earth and everywhere else, we'd need to move at crazy fast speeds to get there in any relevant amount of time. I was just reading about ion propulsion on Wikipedia, and it states that a recently used ion propulsion system could accelerate a ship from 0 to 60 mph in four days. Given that Mars is 67Milion kilometers from Earth (at its closest), wouldn't we need something much faster?

      September 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
      • SB

        Davey, the neat thing about ion drive is that it's extremely fuel efficient. You can leave the engines on for days, weeks, months, and be accelerating the whole time (think back to school about Newton's laws and how they apply to the frictionless environment of space) while using a tiny amount of fuel compared to chemical rockets. But to get off the ground in the first place, you still need the big rocket.

        September 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  72. Dom

    Why are we building heavy lift vehicles to send astronauts directly to Mars and Asteroids? I think it would be much more efficient to assemble the ship in orbit and use traditional heavy rockets to push it out of earth orbit and then use the VASIMR propolsion system to push it once it clears the earth's gravity well. When the ship returns it can be refitted and sent out again. I think shooting the craft directly towards the target from the earth surface is a waste of fuel and resources. The only part that doesn't end up a space junk is the command module.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • columbus

      That's part of the problem, getting NASA to be visionary rather than repeating the same old tricks. They have the people and resources to do some pretty amazing stuff, but we've let the risk of failure suffocate innovation.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • SB

      Dom and Columbus, I think you've misunderstood the article. The launch vehicle is just that; a launch vehicle. This article says nothing about the spacecraft that will be launched by SLS, which very well could be fitted with ion drive, VASIMR, etc.

      In other words this is part of a system, not the whole system. SLS is the part that lifts heavy things so that they can detach and go on their merry way.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • kake79

      Why don't you write NASA and let them know how they should be doing it?

      September 14, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Programmr

      Do the math and tell me how big of a power source you'd need for a VASMIR engine big enough to get a manned vehicle through Earth's radiation belts without frying the crew. VASMIR is simply the wrong tool for that job.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  73. greg

    ....i hope NASA has the vision to one day incorporate 'space station' sections in their rocket design....i'm sure this isn't a new idea...but if a section would have been added to each flight into orbit over the years....we could almost have a complete space station without all the extra contamination to our upper atmosphere..........8)

    September 14, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Programmr

      I have no idea what you're talking about.

      September 14, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  74. Trey

    Looks like a Large step Backwards to me. We should be working on building a station on the Moon, and launching from the Moon to mars. what a waist.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Badly-Bent

      I've thought we should have a station on the moon too. At least a "safe house" in case the station inhabitants can't return to earth.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
      • Craig

        The moon is MUCH farther from earth than the space station.

        September 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  75. us1776

    It's about time we got back to REAL space rockets !! 40 years overdue !!

    The Saturn V was the best rocket of its day. And now we need to build on that legacy that got us to the moon landings.

    This is only a small piece of the puzzle though. Space-based starships and ion propulsion is what has to be perfected for real deep space missions.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  76. Robert

    Guys, lets just focus on getting ANYTHING into space right now. We can work on the "most powerful" part later... ummmK

    September 14, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  77. Lt. L. Greenman

    Do not go to the moon, you have been warned!

    September 14, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Tom

      Because there are rocks that can move?

      September 14, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Hugo

      That's not a warning. Are you a real Lieutenant?

      September 14, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  78. John

    Space...the final frontier. These are the voyages of the star ship Enterprise. Her five year mission, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations...To boldly go where no one has gone before...ahhhhhhhhh ahhhhhhhhhhhh ah ah ah ah ah ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ah ah ah ah ah ahhhhhhh

    September 14, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  79. NS Sherlock

    Let's just make it big enough to carry the gang on Captiol Hill :^)

    September 14, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • petercha

      We don't need it to be that big – it only needs to be big enough to carry the occupant of the White House.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  80. LouAz

    10% more thrust from the same sized package ? WOW ! That is really Advanced Technology. NOT !!!!!!!!!!!

    September 14, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • IDWizzard

      10% more thrust initally isn't the only thing – that most likely comes from the solid rocket boosters. The biggest thing is that if you don't have to expend the same amount of primary fuel (using the solid boosters) to achieve orbit, you end up in space with A LOT more usable fuel and thus able to travel greater distances once there. Thus the SLS designation and the big promise that it holds.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
      • Badly-Bent

        There might be an advantage to having the ability to detach and attach boosters while in outer space? Especially, on a trip to and from Mars.

        September 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      Its clear you don't know beans about rocket science. Lets remember, the Saturn V had 5 engines; this rocket will only have 3. So, 10% more thrust from 40% fewer engines. That is pretty significant.

      Also lets remember that once you get enough thrust to lift your rocket and get it into orbit, extra thrust adds little to the mixture. After all, how long is an astronaut going to want to keep the thrust at 4G? Fuel efficiency on the other hand is a big deal. If you can make a rocket accelerate at 1/10th of a G for 20 hours you are much better off than making it accelerate at 1 G for an hour (assuming of course you are starting from orbit).

      September 14, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
      • LouAz

        I am a retired rocket engine engineer. Sorry to bother you.

        September 14, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
      • SB

        You are nothing of the sort, Lou, or you would never have made such an asinine comment in the first place.

        September 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • IDWizzard

      Actually know a little about rocket theory, but that's another story. In reference to the above, was just trying to make the point that if you can achieve space with greater fuel (imagine if they would have used boosters on the Saturn V), you have more fuel once in space to travel, manuvere, stop, etc. without having the same worries.

      Depends on how you view available thrust and expendable fuel. If you always propose travel at the 100% weight limit, then that is true. Given, however, that the boosters are sub-orbital at best, you can arrive in space with extra fuel by a greater percentage available to the main rockets than if you didn't use the boosters for each pound you drop in carry weight.

      Regardless of all fo that though, just glad to see the big rockets back!

      September 14, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  81. NS Sherlock

    "Space Launch System" ??? Who makes up these names....COME ON....use some imagination.....NASA used to have imagination......Maybe it's simple so the IDIOTS on Capitol Hill can understand it !!!!

    September 14, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • hades65

      How about the Q33-explosive space modulator.

      September 14, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Tom

      At least NASA didn't pay a marketing firm 20 million to come up with that name... I hope...

      September 14, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Oodoodanoo

      I think it should be called Rocket Thing.

      September 14, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Programmr

      The same agency which came up with the Space Transportation System. Yes, that's what that STS meant for every shuttle flight designation (e.g. STS-1 was the first space shuttle flight).

      September 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • AgentJ

      Well, they called the last one Constellation, and it got canceled. Maybe SLS will do better.

      September 15, 2011 at 10:57 am |

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