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NASA begins assembly of Artemis Space Launch System rocket set to return astronauts to the Moon

The rocket will carry the first woman and the next man to the lunar surface in 2024.
Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The aft segments of the Space Launch System solid rocket boosters for the Artemis I mission prepares to move from high bay 4 inside the VAB for stacking on the mobile launcher inside high bay 3.

MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. — Things are stacking up for the build of the Artemis Space Launch System rocket ahead of its 2024 launch to the Moon-- quite literally. 

The rocket set to launch the first woman and next man to the Moon began assembly this week at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. 

Why so soon? Well, the rocket has a series of "increasingly complex" missions that will enable future exploration of the Moon and Mars, including the Artemis I launch next year.

"Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight to test the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon with the Artemis program," NASA wrote.

The remaining nine pieces for the twin solid rocket boosters that will power the first flight of NASA's new deep-space rocket along with remaining rocket pieces and the Orion spacecraft will be added over the next several weeks. 

But the build is no small feat. 

Once fully stacked the SLS rocket will stand taller than the Statue of Liberty with boosters each approximately half the length of a football field. According to NASA, it will also produce about 15 percent more thrust at liftoff than the Apollo program Saturn V rocket, making it the most powerful rocket ever built.

“Stacking the first piece of the SLS rocket on the mobile launcher marks a major milestone for the Artemis Program,” said Andrew Shroble, an integrated operations flow manager with Jacobs. “It shows the mission is truly taking shape and will soon head to the launch pad.”

Through the Artemis program, NASA also looks to establish sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade. 

"SLS and Orion, along with the human landing system and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration," it wrote.

The Artemis I launch will blast off from Launch Complex 39B. A finalized date has yet to be set. 

The last time an American walked on the Moon was back in 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission, making astronaut Harrison Schmitt the last U.S. man to step foot on the Moon.

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