NASA might send humans to orbit the Moon again
NASA’s next generation rocket Space Launch System (SLS) is currently scheduled to send an unmanned capsule to orbit the Moon, but the White House has asked the government-run space agency to look into the possibility of making the rocket’s debut launch a manned mission.
The White House has asked the space agency to take around a month to assess how much additional time, money and risk would be added to the SLS’ debut flight if a two-member crew is put on board.
Bill Gerstenmaier, the agency’s associate administrator for human exploration & operations, said, “This study will determine how much additional time is needed … to add crew to EM-1. We will definitely have a [later launch date]. We also recognize we'll need to add some additional funding.”
The SLS rocket is currently scheduled to make its debut flight, Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), in sometime in late 2018 or early 2019. It will launch an Orion space capsule on a route that would take it around our celestial neighbor and then back to Earth.
Under the current plan, a crewed SLS mission will follow with EM-2 sometime between 2021 and 2023. But, the White House wants the space agency to speed up the manned mission.
NASA started working on the new super rocket SLS in 2011 to replace the over-budget and behind-schedule Constellation program.