The Artemis mega moon rocket is NASA’s latest and most powerful launch vehicle, intended to return astronauts, robots, and supplies to the moon for the first time in more than 50 years. It consists of a multistage rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS), which can carry various additional modules atop it, such as the Orion crew vehicle that houses astronauts during flight.
The SLS is an outgrowth of a previously planned rocket called Ares V, a heavy-lift two-stage vertically stacked launch system capable of carrying about 287,000 pounds (130,000 kilograms) to low Earth orbit or 143,000 pounds (65,000 kg) to the moon, according to NASA (opens in new tab). Ares V was part of the Constellation program, an initiative, started during the George W. Bush administration, that intended to return people to the moon, according to the space agency (opens in new tab).
Constellation was deemed too expensive, but in 2010, President Barack Obama signed the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 into law, directing NASA to create an Ares V-like rocket called the Space Launch System, according to The Planetary Society (opens in new tab). Although the SLS is intended for use in crewed missions, the Artemis mission to send humans beyond low Earth orbit for the first time since 1972 has suffered numerous delays.
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