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Watch NASA test the rocket engine that might one day take us to Mars

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NASA's heavy-lifting Space Launch System (SLS) is set to become the most powerful rocket ever constructed — ferrying humans to nearby asteroids and perhaps, one day, even Mars. Late last month, the space agency put the rocket's RS-25 engine through its paces at the same site where the Apollo Program was tested. This particular firing was intended to try out a new computer controller used to monitor the engine (the RS-25 itself is an old-hand at space travel, and was first used on the Space Shuttle), with the steam in the footage created by the tens of thousands of gallons of water used as coolant.

The Space Launch System will be equipped with four of these rocket engines

The SLS will eventually be outfitted with four RS-25 rocket engines for its core stage, with this quartet firing in unison to create more than 1.6 million pounds of thrust and — as the video above illustrates — a hell of a lot of noise. However, the RS-25s only represent a small portion of the SLS's overall lifting power, with a pair of five-segment solid rocket boosters (SRBs) providing the bulk of the launcher's estimated 8 million pounds of thrust. The first test of these SRBs was conducted in March this year, with the flame from the engines so fierce that it melted the sand around the test site into glass.