NASA authorities have recently revealed its plans of investigating the possibility of putting astronauts on the first launch of its most powerful rocket ever - the Space Launch System (SLS) - which has been said to have the ability of dramatically speeding up its plans to get humans back to the Moon, and one day to Mars. In a major turnaround, the space agency said that they have been currently considering an additional crew of astronauts to Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) , which is an orbital mission to the Moon that has been initially set to launch in September 2018. However, authorities from NASA reveal that EM-1 is still crewless until now.
NASA's SLS Mission
According to reports revealed by Science Alert, although September 2018 has been made as the initially deadline, given the upgrades that will need to be made to the SLS to accommodate humans, authorities have revealed that there may be still a huge and abrupt change of plans in NASA's mission timetable. It was found that prior to the official announcement of the first SLS mission, crewed journeys on the SLS and its accompanying Orion capsule had been planned for 2021 at the earliest. Additionally, NASA describes SLS' newest endeavor as a "bombshell announcement" which is also being highly regarded as a sign of the Trump administration's declared interest in returning astronauts to the Moon.
Furthermore, in one of his statements reported by Space News, Bob Jacobs, a NASA spokesman, has also revealed that the study will allegedly examine the possible opportunities that it could present to accelerate the effort of the first crewed flight and as well as to determine what it would take to accomplish that first step of pushing humans farther into space. Moreover, NASA's acting administrator Robert Lightfoot adds that the study will examine the technical and schedule issues of flying a crew on EM-1. On the other hand, Lightfoot didn't discuss the specific challenges, but it was believed that they are likely to involve both issues with the Orion spacecraft and SLS vehicle.
The EM-1 Operation
Meanwhile, it was found that although it's too soon to say how a crewed EM-1 operation would alter mission parameters, the existing plan states that it will most likely take about three weeks, considering an uncrewed Orion capsule collecting data as it orbits the Moon for six days, at a distance of around 70,000 kilometers (43,495 miles). Ultimately, experts said that if certain obstacles would be surpassed, the new-look EM-1 could potentially serve as an important testing ground to prepare for its successor mission, EM-2, which is set to take place three to five years later.