15 Sep 2011

NASA unveils new Moon, Mars rocket

9:15 pm on 15 September 2011

American space agency NASA has unveiled its design for a huge new rocket to carry astronauts to the Moon, the planet Mars and beyond.

The rocket and its Orion capsule are expected to cost $US16 billion.

NASA's administrator, General Charles Bolden, says the first test flight is due to take place in six years' time.

The BBC reports the Space Launch System (SLS), as it is currently known, will be the most powerful launcher since the Saturn V rockets that put men on the Moon.

On top of it, Nasa plans to use the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, with the first launch of the SLS expected to take place towards the end of 2017.

General Bolden hailed the beginning of the post-shuttle era, saying that that the "next chapter of America's space exploration story is being written".