NASA’s Mars-Bound Mega Rocket Ahead of Schedule

The development of NASA’s biggest, most powerful rocket yet is running ahead of schedule and on budget, its primary contractor said last Wednesday.

The towering Space Launch System (SLS) is a 384-foot (117 meters) behemoth intended to launch astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit to deep-space asteroids and Mars. The vehicle is slated to make its first test flight in 2017, when it will launch an unmanned Orion capsule (also in development) beyond the moon. The first manned flight is pegged for 2021.