07/19/2019

NASA’s Megarocket Bet To Return To The Moon—And Beyond

17:30 minutes

a logo that says 'apollo 50'This story is part of our celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. View the rest of our special coverage here.


The Trump administration says it wants to go back to the moon—but how will we get there? You’ve seen the advances in spaceflight from private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin. But a big part of the current U.S. plan for returning to the moon involves something called SLS, the Space Launch System—a megarocket assembled from a combination of parts repurposed from the Shuttle program, and new hardware. 

John Blevins, deputy chief engineer for the Space Launch System, and Erika Alvarez, lead systems engineer for the Space Launch System Vehicle, join Ira to talk about the rocket’s design, capabilities, and NASA’s plans to use it to go back to the moon and beyond. 

View photos from Science Friday’s field trip to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

a rocket stands in the distance on a bright day. there are trees and other types of smaller rockets nearby
View of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Credit: Johanna Mayer
a large orange column tank that is braced by huge scaffolding
This liquid hydrogen tank is a large piece of structural test hardware for the Space Launch System, located in at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Credit: Johanna Mayer
some laser equipment sitting on cement blocks on an outdoor launch facility
An array of lasers used to measure the movements of the liquid hydrogen tank at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Credit: Johanna Mayer

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Segment Guests

John Blevins

John Blevins is the deputy chief engineer for NASA’s Space Launch System Program at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Erika Alvarez

Erika Alvarez is lead systems engineer for the Space Launch System Vehicle at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Meet the Producers and Host

About Charles Bergquist

As Science Friday’s director, Charles Bergquist channels the chaos of a live production studio into something sounding like a radio program. Favorite topics include planetary sciences, chemistry, materials, and shiny things with blinking lights.

About Katie Feather

Katie Feather is an associate producer for Science Friday and the proud mother of two cats, Charleigh and Sadie.

About Ira Flatow

Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Science FridayHis green thumb has revived many an office plant at death’s door.

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