According to a NASA news release, the Space Agency “is beginning a preliminary design review for its Space Launch System (SLS).” This is an important step because it moves forward, the development of the heavy-lift rocket from concept to “initial design”. It’s meant to ensure the rocket can be made functional as opposed to a diagram on a sheet of paper. “This phase of development allows us to take a critical look at every design element to ensure it’s capable of carrying humans to places we’ve never been before,” said Dan Dumbacher, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development in Washington. “This is the rocket that will send humans to an asteroid and Mars, so we want to be sure we get its development right.” This phase should be completed by summer’s end. Todd May, manager of the SLS Program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama said, “We are on track and meeting all the milestones necessary to fly in 2017.” Should everything go as planned and on schedule, the first flight will take place in 2017 with an unmanned test launch. If that’s successful, the next step would be a manned launch in 2021 to study an asteroid. The eventual goal would be to propel astronauts beyond low-earth orbit and to an eventual landing on Mars. It’s unfortunate that it’s still so far out in the future when this country landed men on the moon forty-four years ago and we are not, all these years later, prepared to test these rockets today. This SLS program should have been in process while the Space Shuttle was still flying, having been shut down far short of its life expectancy. Progress has been slow and due in large part, to the lack of commitment from our government and the lack of drive and challenge as when JFK spoke of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. That mission, from concept to completion, took eight years…..eight years, with far less sophisticated computers and technology. It’s a sad state to what we have become and is in no way a reflection of all the committed men and women currently working in our space program. They are the dreamers and the doers…..