SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – NASA officials say they’ve completed a review of a powerful new space launch system and are green lighting the first stage of a project to get humans on Mars in roughly 20 years.

Officials say initial phase of the heavy-lift rocket project, known as the Space Launch System Program, will now move from formulation to development, something no other exploration class vehicle has done since the creation of the space shuttle. The first generation rocket will be the most powerful ever built, with 130 metric tons of lift, enough to carry an Orion spacecraft beyond low earth orbit.

“We are on a journey of scientific and human exploration that leads to Mars,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a news release from the agency. “And we’re firmly committed to building the launch vehicle and other supporting systems that will take us on that journey.”

The 70-metric ton SLS rocket project calls for $7.021 billion in funding for the initial launch, which planned for sometime before before November 2018.

“We’re committing today to a funding level and readiness date that will keep us on track to sending humans to Mars in the 2030s – and we’re going to stand behind that commitment,” Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a press release from NASA. Click here for more information on how NASA plans to build the rocket.

Private companies are also working on similar technology. Tesla founder Elon Musk has said he hopes his Space X technology will have humans on Mars within 10-12 years.


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