NASA Administrator Charles Bolden unveiled the world's largest welder on Friday at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
The 170-foot-tall welder will be used to construct NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which will be the world's most powerful rocket. The welder will assemble the pieces of the SLS's core stage, which includes putting together domes, rings, and barrels. The core stage will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for the rocket's missions.
The rocket, which will be more than 212 feet tall when completed, will launch astronauts "farther into deep space than ever before possible," Universe Today reports. The SLS will take crews from NASA's Orion deep space capsule to Mars and to asteroids.
"This rocket is a game changer in terms of deep space exploration and will launch NASA astronauts to investigate asteroids and explore the surface of Mars while opening new possibilities for science missions," Bolden said at the ceremony. "The road to Mars starts at Michoud."
The SLS's maiden test launch will be held in November 2018, and associate administrator Robert Lightfoot said at the event that the SLS will help humans reach Mars by the 2030s. --Meghan DeMaria