NASA says its Space Launch System is the most powerful rocket ever built and will one day send humans into deep space. But its first journey was a slow one: The massive rocket rolled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on top of a crawler Thursday for an 11-hour trip to a launch pad four miles away, Space.com reports. After a few weeks of testing, NASA plans to carry out a "wet dress rehearsal" of procedures including a practice countdown in early April.
The stack that left the VAB through the world's biggest doors was 332 feet tall, slightly higher than the Statue of Liberty, CNN reports. It contained the Orion spacecraft as well as the Space Launch System rocket, which was the first moon-bound rocket to leave the building since Apollo 17 in 1972. The rollout was "really an iconic moment for this vehicle," said NASA associate administrator Tom Whitmeyer. "To be here for a new generation of a super-heavy-lift, exploration-class vehicle is a day to remember."
If the "dress rehearsal" is a success, NASA will set a date, expected to be late May at the earliest, for the Artemis 1 mission, a 26-day uncrewed mission around the moon, the BBC reports. NASA plans to follow Artemis 1 with a crewed mission in 2024 and a moon landing a year or more later. "The Space Launch System is the only rocket capable of sending humans into deep space. It's the most powerful rocket in the world," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during the rollout. "And Orion will venture farther than any spacecraft built for humans that has ever flown humans." (Read more NASA stories.)