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Visiting NASA's Colossal Space Launch System

SLS,Artemis,NASA
John Kraus
November 15, 20215:00 PM

John Kraus for Supercluster

NASA has officially delayed the return of its astronauts to the moon to no earlier than 2025, which according to NASA's own Office of Inspector General, is a target that will still be missed by a few years due to the many challenges facing the Artemis program. From costs to spacesuit availability to the launch readiness of the vehicles needed to make the trip, the OIG says there's a long road to making these missions sustainable. Each SLS launch is expected to cost around 2 billion with the price tag of developing the vehicle itself costing taxpayers around 20 billion.

John Kraus for Supercluster

The agency's intent is to return humans to the lunar surface for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972 and also land the first woman and person of color there within the decade.

We visited the Space Launch System in NASA's historic Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center last week, once home to the Saturn V and Space Shuttle fleets. The structure was completed in 1966 about 3.5 miles from Launch Pad 39A (the pad SpaceX currently occupies) and 4.2 miles from Launch Pad 39B, where the SLS will launch from. The VAB is one of the largest buildings in the world standing floor to ceiling at 525ft. Our photographers are sometimes allowed to shoot launches from the roof which allows a full view of all the launch pads on Florida's space coast.

The first launch of the SLS was originally scheduled for 2017 but is now targeting February 2022 and will send an uncrewed Orion capsule to lunar orbit and back. The second Artemis mission will do the same with a crew, a major test for Artemis III, which is expected to bring humans to the surface aboard SpaceX's Starship carrier. NASA's current administrator Bill Nelson remarked that work has been delayed significantly on the Artemis program due to Blue Origin's failed lawsuit to challenge NASA's decision to deny them a human landing system contract.

John Kraus for Supercluster

John Kraus for Supercluster

John Kraus for Supercluster

John Kraus for Supercluster

John Kraus for Supercluster

John Kraus for Supercluster

John Kraus for Supercluster

John Kraus
November 15, 20215:00 PM