Quirks and Quarks

NASA's big rocket is going nowhere

The Space Launch System won't make a first flight with astronauts, despite the Trump administration's request.
An illustration of NASA's Space Launch System. It will be 111 metres tall in the crew configuration, will deliver a 105-metric-ton lift capacity and feature a powerful exploration upper stage. (NASA)

Since the space shuttle stopped flying in 2011, NASA has gone six years depending on the Russians to carry its astronauts into space.

In that time it's been developing a new, giant rocket called the Space Launch System. It's meant to carry humans back to the Moon, to asteroids and to Mars. But the SLS is is over-budget and behind schedule, and private space companies with their own rockets are nipping at NASA's heels. 

Worse, now Donald Trump may be involved, as NASA just refused, on cost and safety grounds, the Trump administration's suggestion that its first flight carry astronauts.

We speak with Eric Berger, senior space editor at the website Ars Tecnica, about whether NASA's big rocket will fly.

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