NASA not taking humans on first flight of new rocket

James Marshall
May 13, 2017

The first test flight of NASA's Orion capsule, created to one day carry people to Mars, has been delayed until 2019 at the earliest due to high costs, the USA space agency said Friday, May 12.

The changes to EM-1 in ordered to accommodate crew on the Orion spacecraft would have cost between $600-$900 million, William H. Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said.

"We're in this for the long haul", NASA acting administrator Robert Lightfoot said at a briefing on the decision, long expected for the $23 billion effort to build SLS and its Orion launch capsule.

Speaking to astronauts at the International Space Station last month, US President Donald Trump seemed to urge NASA to hurry along its efforts to send people to Mars - a mission now planned for the 2030s. Still, adding a human crew to a potentially catastrophic maiden voyage like this can only increase the chances of a national tragedy, which would definitely slow down the current rush to return to space, Engadget said.

Aside from limiting further delays in the schedule, keeping EM-1 uncrewed will also allow NASA to do a full shakedown on a relatively untested system.

Even without adding crew to EM-1, the launch date will slip into 2019, they confirmed.

The test flight can be more dynamic, as NASA calls it, without a crew, and the lessons learned can help advance the next mission when people finally are on board.

Still, NASA pushes on and Lightfoot Jr. stresses that while there are challenges in the development of both SLS and Orion, things are going well.

The megarocket represents a robust foundation for ultimately moving human presence out into the solar system, Gerstenmaier said. A follow-up flight with crew inside Orion is tentatively scheduled for no earlier than 2021, but will probably be pushed back as well. In addition, deep space habitation and propulsion system development activities also are underway and life support and related technologies are being tested 250 miles above the Earth aboard the International Space Station now.

As it stands, EM-1 has already been delayed due to a number of factors which include both production delays as well as unforeseen setbacks such as the Louisiana tornado in February. It's a step in NASA's goal of putting humans on Mars in the 2030s.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - NASA says the test flight of its new megarocket will fly without a crew. The Orion abort attitude control system was tested in Maryland, and Orion's heat shield is being fabricated and will be installed in a few months. All European systems for the Orion service module have been integrated into the Orion testing laboratory near Denver. This infrastructure will be available for use by others both domestic and global as they want to join in the effort to advance human presence into the solar system.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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