Today, NASA has officially committed to build the new Space Launch System, the world's most powerful rocket ever, which hopefully will take us to Mars by 2030. The program is now set for development -- the "first time that an exploration class vehicle has gotten this status since the space shuttle".
According to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden:
We are on a journey of scientific and human exploration that leads to Mars. And we're firmly committed to building the launch vehicle and other supporting systems that will take us on that journey.
The 70-tonne rocket will launch for the first time before November 2018, a remarkable achievement if everything goes as programmed.
This decision comes after a thorough review known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C), which provides a development cost baseline for the 70-metric ton version of the SLS of $US7.021 billion from February 2014 through the first launch and a launch readiness schedule based on an initial SLS flight no later than November 2018.
"Our nation is embarked on an ambitious space exploration program, and we owe it to the American taxpayers to get it right," said Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot, who oversaw the review process. "After rigorous review, we're committing today to a funding level and readiness date that will keep us on track to sending humans to Mars in the 2030s -- and we're going to stand behind that commitment."
Part of the rocket -- the Orion spaceship -- will be launched to space on December of this year.