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NASA Won't Send Astronauts On SLS Rocket's First Flight Despite Trump's Request

First Posted: May 16, 2017 04:50 AM EDT
NASA Space Launch System
NASA rules out regarding adding of crew for the SLS rocket launch in 2019.
(Photo : Jeff Quitney/YouTube screenshot)

NASA will not be sending astronauts on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion space capsule during its first launch, despite President Donald Trump's request that the American space agency does so "during my first term or, at worst, during my second term." The deep space exploration rocket is scheduled to make its maiden spaceflight in 2019. A manned mission has been delayed to at least 2022.

M Live reported that the space agency started to study whether it was possible to add astronauts for the first flight of the SLS, at the request of the Trump administration. However, last week NASA announced that it had decided not to launch a crewed mission aboard the SLS. The acting NASA administrator Robert M. Lightfoot added that though sending a manned mission was feasible technically, the additional time, cost and risks outweighed the benefits.

"Taking folks farther than we ever have before just is not necessarily the most easy proposition in the world," Lightfoot added, according to a UPI report. "We are looking for a sustainable program here, more than just one mission."

A crewed mission would have meant an additional cost of $600 million to $900 million to the $24 billion price tag and set back the launch to the first half of 2020. Moreover, significant work would have been required that would have meant including a fully operational life-support system to the Orion crew capsule.

Incidentally, the launch date for SLS was previously targeted for November 2018. However, it has been delayed to 2019 due to several technical challenges. Furthermore, a tornado struck Louisiana's Michoud Assembly Facility, where parts of the rocket that are being built were damaged. In addition, while being moved, a large dome that was part of a liquid oxygen fuel tank for the SLS was damaged beyond repair, according to NASA.

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