We know: The progress toward NASA using the SLS (or Space Launch System if you aren't into the whole brevity thing) has been painfully slow, starting way back in 2011. Today marks a significant step toward it shooting astronauts into the furthest reaches of space, however -- testing its booster system. The trial run was two minutes long (the same length as it would be during an actual launch) and in those 120 seconds, the Utah-based booster produced 3.6 million pounds of thrust. NASA says this is one of two tests necessary before the system gets cleared for a trip to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the next one takes place in early 2016.
These boosters provide some 75 percent of the thrust needed to escape Earth's cruel gravity, and the ground-based experiments work to ensure that they won't conk out (or worse) on the launchpad. We're still at least a few years away from boldly going where no one's trekked before, but at least we're making progress to getting there.
[Image credit: NASA]