NASA takes another step toward Mars with engine test

NASA takes another step toward Mars with engine test

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, MS (WLOX) - Though only 430 seconds, even for the most seasoned of scientists, a rocket engine test is still fun.

"It's awesome every time when I see one of these," said Steve Wofford, the liquid engine office manager at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. "It's great. The ground shakes, your clothes rattle, it's loud."

Wofford says he's absolutely committed to helping get the launch system ready for launching the Orion space craft in 2018, and to the red planet in the 2030's.

"We are going to Mars, and today is a step toward that. I'm really excited to be part of this program," Wofford said.

The engines being tested are former main engines from the space shuttle program modified to operate with a new engine controller. Four engines and two booster rockets will make up the launch system that experts call the most power rocket in the world.

Thursday's rocket engine test for the RS-25 engine is anything but routine. And, for the first time, it pulled test project manager Ronnie Rigney out from behind his concrete lab.

"Being able to be at this location and see the actual thrust of the engine exiting the test stand, and feel the rumble of the rocket, is something that I don't get to experience very often after being here for 30 years."

The test was part of a media tour, attracting 30 mainstream media outlets and 84 social media representatives.

It's social media that Jonathan Stroud of NASA Social says will help the project literally get off the ground.

"I think social media plays an integral part in getting us to Mars because you need that support. You need that support base from the fans like myself and others around, and then NASA is supporting us giving us that platform to help them get us to Mars," Stroud said. "So, it really makes us feel like we are part of it."

Copyright 2016 WLOX. All rights reserved.