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SLS is the Way to Deep Space | May 24, 2015

Destination: MarsI have been discouraged lately by what seems like almost no movement in our ability to send humans further into space than the moon, and the last visit to there was in the early 70’s. But an article in the June, 2015 Scientific American gives me renewed hope.
When President Barack Obama cancelled the Constellation program, which was supposed to get astronauts to Mars eventually, it looked like the NASA space program had lost all direction, and the Space Launch System (SLS) program which is designed to take its place was criticized as welfare for states and corporations that are home to large NASA contractors.
But the SLS will be able to carry out the President’s asteroid missions as well as giving us Mars capability, and the means to get to Europa in 2.5 years instead of the six it took smaller robot rockets to do it. And it is on time and on budget so far.
I am convinced we need a heavy lifter, not only because using smaller rockets to assemble an interplanetary vehicle in orbit would be awkward, expensive, and highly dangerous. but also because cutting transit time to any planet will allow astronauts to avoid some radiation exposure.
Anyhow, the article in SA lays out other convincing reasons for producing the SLS, not the least of which is that it will be less expensive than the Constellation program would have been, relying as it does on some off-the-shelf hardware (like shuttle main engines), with built-in improvements as they are developed. I can only add to the article that increasing NASA’s budget by a measly one-half per cent of GDP could kick the program into high gear and get us to Mars quicker than the 2030’s. Then I might even live to see it happen.

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