NASA’s Space Launch System passes key milestone for Moon mission

NASA is celebrating a key step towards its mission to get people back to the Moon: The first large core rocket stage that will power the new Space Launch System being built by contractor Boeing is now four-fifths assembled. Wait – did I just say four-fifths? So like this stage isn’t even complete?

No, it’s not – but when it comes to building gigantic rocket cores that will propel the Orion crewed spacecraft all the way to the Moon in time for the Artemis program’s target date of 2024, you celebrate when you take any significant step forward.

Also, remember we’re talking about four-fifths of a rocket stage that when complete, will be over 200 feet long including engines and fuel tanks, which NASA helpfully points out is approximately the length of a dozen cars parked back-to-back. It’s the biggest rocket NASA will have built since the Saturn V first stage that helped bring the first human visitors to the Moon, which was quite a bit smaller at around 140 feet long.

Next up, NASA will take delivery of other aspects of the SLS launch system and vehicle, and Boeing will of course work on that remaining fifth of this stage. 2024 may seem like a distant target, but rockets take time, and rockets with people on board rightly take even more.