NASA is preparing its ambitious Artemis program, in which the first woman and the next man will enter the moon by 2024. This also includes plans for a permanent moon base and manned trips to Mars.
Preparations include ensuring that the Super Heavy-Lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and associated Orion spacecraft are safe and reliable for the challenging lunar mission.
In a message posted on Twitter on Thursday July 2, NASA announced that it had now completed structural testing for the SLS rocket at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
An attached video (below) shows a trial version of the missile's liquid oxygen tank that is being deliberately pushed to its limits, culminating in the dramatic destruction of the tank, as planned.
The sequence shows a replica of the rocket hardware, a so-called "structural test article", which is installed in a test bench in NASA's Space Flight Center. For the test, hydraulic systems pressed and pulled on the hardware to simulate the loads to which the rocket was subjected during launch and ascent. For this special test, NASA engineers wanted to put as much stress on the rocket as it would expect when it actually launched to get accurate data about its structural limits.
"Engineers in Marshall's test lab worked with the SLS team to test four of the structures that make up most of the missile's 212-foot core stage, as well as the structures that make up the entire upper part of the missile," she said NASA accompany the video in an article. "The final test concludes an almost three-year structural test series in which the structural design of these various hardware elements has been qualified for the missile designed to take NASA's Artemis missions and astronauts to the moon."
Orion, the astronaut spaceship that will launch on the SLS, has recently completed space environment testing and NASA has taken another step toward its launch goal.
NASA is aiming to bring Artemis astronauts to the moon in the next four years, but the project faces a series of delays and a spiral budget. Despite the challenges, astronaut Christina Koch, who recently broke the record for a woman's longest uninterrupted stay in space at 328 days, told Digital Trends that NASA is "absolutely" achieving its "bold goal" of bringing people back to the moon can until 2024.