NASA Tests Rocket Engine For Deep Space Exploration

The test marks the beginning of a journey to Mars.

By Kelley Forrester, Larry King Now

Image Courtesy of NASA/SSC

NASA stated that it has reached a major milestone in human space exploration after successfully testing a rocket engine. 

The RS-25 rocket engine was tested on Thursday for 500 seconds. The engine, No. 2059, is intended for deep space exploration under NASA's new Space Launch System (SLS). The system was created to carry out human missions to deep space including Mars and an asteroid. Four RS-25 engines will power the SLS missions. 

The next time that exact engine fires for the same length of time, it will be carrying astronauts on the first deep space mission in over 45 years.

The engines NASA is using for the early SLS missions are left over from the retired Space Shuttle Program.

"What a great moment for NASA and Stennis. We have exciting days ahead with a return to deep space and a journey to Mars, and this test is a very big step in that direction," said Rick Gilbrech, director of NASA's Stennis Space Center.

NASA along with Aerojet Rocketdyne, the contractor for the RS-25 engines, ran a series of developmental tests on the engine last year at Stennis, including evaluating the controller - or the "brain" of the engine. After Thursday's test, NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne will continue to test new engine controllers and the rest of the RS-25 engines. 

The first flight under the SLS program will be carried out without a crew onboard and is scheduled for 2018 or 2019. The first crewed launch is planned for take off between 2021 and 2023, depending on proper funding. 

The last man to walk on the moon, Gene Cernan, discusses the future of space exploration with Larry King. 

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