The US space agency NASA has finally announced that the first flight of SLS rocket would not carry astronauts. Space Launch System (SLS) is a giant rocket that NASA was developing to take astronauts deep into space and to the Mars. The government led by Trump has asked to carry at least two people in its first flight. NASA was studying the feasibility and finally came to the conclusion that it was not possible. The agency has also announced that the unmanned flight would take off in the year 2019 instead of 2018. Further, NASA has added that crewed mission would not take place before 2022.
Briefing the news conference, NASA’s Acting Admin Robert Lightfoot said that they appreciated the chance to evaluate the possibility of this crewed flight. After calculating the cost, risk and other technical factors, it is almost impossible to make changes for a crewed EM-1 mission at this time. He added that Presidential support for space mission was very good and was not overlooked.
The Head of Human Flight at NASA said that the risk was sensible, but it was really an extra risk. The study says that it requires an extra cost.
NASA has planned to send unmanned space vehicle ‘Orion’ on a 3-week trip around the moon. Due to funding and technical glitches, NASA had to postpone the uncrewed mission. Earlier, the agency planned to send this flight in November 2018.
Lightfoot said that putting the astronauts on the first flight was feasible, but it involved huge cost and revisions. In order to put crew, lots of tools and technology were required. For example, life support system to keep people alive and abort system to save the crew from the emergency situation. It would require approx between $600 million and $900 million. Also, we would require extra time to pull it off. So, NASA informed this to White House and the President agreed to stick with the earlier plan.
As part of the best practice, NASA always sends unmanned spacecraft in the space. Once the test is successful, the crew members can ride on the spacecraft.
The SpaceX and Boeing are developing the space taxis for NASA. They will be used to carry the astronauts to the international space station.