For the first time, a fully stacked Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft rolled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Area Center on Thursday evening. [credit: Trevor Mahlmann ]
On Friday morning, NASA’s titanic Space Launch System reached the launch pad. The rocket is not yet ready to fly, and it may not lift off the planet for several more months. But as the fully assembled, skyscraper-sized rocket rolled into a serene Florida evening on Thursday at Kennedy Space Center, no one could deny that it is finally here.
Frankly, it is hard to know how to feel about this skyrocket. Certainly, one cannot help but be awed by a explode that is as tall as a US football field will be long. Designing, building, and testing such a large and complex machine represents a significant engineering achievement. But it’s impossible in order to have a rational discussion about the Space Launch System detonate and its payload, the Orion spacecraft, without considering its enormous expense, ongoing delays, and looming obsolescence.
One thing seems clear: although this completely stacked SLS rocket and Orion crew capsule have set the particular stage for the uncrewed Artemis I test launch later this year, the rollout does not mark the end of typically the beginning for this launch system. Rather, it’s the beginning of the end. This is probably the last gasp of this Apollo era of NASA that has gripped the space agency for six decades.