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article imageNASA will not put a crew on first launch of Space Launch System

By Karen Graham     May 13, 2017 in Science
After studying the feasibility and costs involved in putting a crew on board NASA's first flight of its Space Launch System (SLS) mega- rocket, NASA announced on Friday the launch will remain unmanned.
Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot released a statement on Friday, May 12, stating the agency will not fly a crew on the first flight of its SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. An excerpt from the statement reads: "NASA appreciates the energy, creativity, and depth of engineering and program analysis that was brought to the decision, but ultimately, the decision was made not to fly crew on the first flight after weighing the data and assessing all implications. However, the work we did on this evaluation will flow into our planning for the next two years. We look forward to using this information to strengthen our EM-2 posture."
On February 25, Digital Journal reported that President Trump had asked the space agency to conduct a feasibility study on adding astronauts to the first flight of its new mega-rocket, a project originally planned as an unmanned mission around the moon in 2018. The request came as a surprise to agency administrators who had been working on the mission for some time.
NASA's deep space capsule Orion is being built to possibly ferry astronauts to Mars
NASA's deep space capsule Orion is being built to possibly ferry astronauts to Mars
MC1 Gary Keen, US NAVY/AFP/File
NASA was given 30 days to complete the feasibility study, knowing that adding a manned crew will set back the planned launch of the SLS back by at least three years because of launch platform changes that will be needed at the Kennedy Space Center, William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration, said.
During the press conference on Friday, Lightfoot told reporters, "At the end of the day we found it technically feasible to fly a crew on EM-1, however, we decided that while it was technically feasible, we decided that the baseline plan we had in place was the best plan," reports Popular mechanics.
NASA has advanced the date of the first launch of the SLS from late in 2018 to sometime in 2019, yet to be announced. The agency will launch a "Block 1" SLS rocket in 2019 to boost an unmanned Orion capsule on a three-week flight beyond the moon and return it in a high-speed re-entry with an ocean splashdown.
NASA Completes Welding on Massive Fuel Tank for First Flight of SLS Rocket.
NASA Completes Welding on Massive Fuel Tank for First Flight of SLS Rocket.
NASA
NASA is looking at late 2021 as a timeframe for the launch of the EM-2 Orion spacecraft with a manned crew. The length of time between the two launches has raised some concerns over maintaining public and Congressional support for the space program.
Newt Gingrich, who has advised Trump on space matters suggests that with private space companies like SpaceX working on reusable rockets, the SLS may end up being obsolete before it is ever launched.
More about NASA, space launch system, Unmanned, Trump, technical risks
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