NASA has announced on Monday that they have completed the rocket that will take US astronauts back to the Moon in 2024, 52 years after the last Apollo mission in 1972.
The rocket stands tall at 212 feet (65 meters) which is the equivalent of a 20 storey building and touted to be the most powerful which could reach a record breaking speed of Mach 23 at its final stage of separation from the Orion crew capsule.
The ambitious project has been marred by delays and cost overruns – it was originally supposed to have taken place in November 2018 and budget for the overall project has increased from $6.2 billion to $8 billion.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine called it a monumental day for the agency as they get to announce the core stage completion of their SLS rocket for the Artemis mission that would put the first woman and the next man on the south pole of the Moon in 2024.
The first uncrewed test for the Artemis 1 mission will commence by June 2020. The mission objective of Artemis would be to exploit the water ice that was discovered in the south pole of the Moon, both for life support systems and also as a means of using that as a propellant by splitting water ice into its components Hydrogen and Oxygen.
NASA views this mission to back to the Moon in 2024 as a stepping stone for future missions to Mars in 2030s.
NASA would have spent an estimated $34 billion on the SLS, Orion and Exploration of the Ground systems till 2019, which is scheduled to rise to over $50 billion by the time the launch date arrives in 2024.
The mission relies heavily on Congress and the White House providing them with the budget necessary for the successful realization of its goal.