by Sean Macken

Monday morning, the John C. Stennis Space Center hosted a media day as part of a NASA’s 2020 budget proposal roll-out that centers on their Moon-to-Mars Initiative. The day kicked-off with a live press conference at the Kennedy Space Center where NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced President Donald J. Trump’s proposed $21 billion budget.

Included was funding for key components to return humans to the Moon and eventually Mars, which would include:

*Gateway orbiter that would host and manage transport and lunar landers as well as personnel on board to manage a sustained human presence on the moon plus serve as a launching point for missions to mars

*An Orion capsule to carry cargo and astronauts

*The new Space Launch System (SLS)

SLS will be the largest rocket ever created to enable an eventual manned mission to Mars and human travel to the moon is slated for the early 2020s.

Attention then turned to the crucial role Stennis plays in this initiative, as Stennis Deputy Director Randy Galloway expressed clearly that Stennis is critical to the Moon-to-Mars effort.

The site has already begun testing the RS-25 engines, previously used on shuttle missions, and will eventually test the core segment of the SLS rocket.

Ryan Roberts, B-2 Test Stand Manager, noted the massive repairs and enhancements to the stand previously used to test Shuttle components.  This will enable the eventual live “Green” flight of the SLS core segment and the four RS-25 engines within the next few years.

The media team then traveled to the A-1 Test Stand where Jeffrey Harrison, A-1 Test Stand Manager, provided an on-site overview of the test stand that handles the RS-25 engine tests.  Originally, 4 engines for the initial SLS launch have been tested and will be stored until Stennis can conduct the SLS core segment test.

Finally, the tour concluded with a visit to Rocketdyne Corporation’s facility for a look at the RS-25 engines and how the company builds, tests and prepares the transport of the engines to NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Once assembled, the SLS and the four RS-25 engines will be transported by barge to Stennis.

After a full day at Space Center, the center will play a critical role in launching successful missions back to the Moon and eventually to Mars.