NASA has spent the last six years building the massive Space Launch System rocket, but beyond making general statements about a “Journey to Mars,” the agency has not provided much detail about how the SLS booster would be used to that end.

This situation began to change on Tuesday, when the agency’s chief of human spaceflight, Bill Gerstenmaier, briefed the agency’s advisory council on tentative plans for the first dozen launches of the rocket.
During his presentation, Gerstenmaier presented slides outlining the assembly of a “deep space gateway” and subsequent testing of a “deep space transport” system in the vicinity of the Moon.

The sequence of missions would culminate in a crewed mission to orbit Mars, but not land, in 2033.

Although Gerstenmaier did not identify the funding needed for such a series of events—which would certainly be considerable and require support from the Trump administration—Tuesday’s presentation nonetheless offered an insightful peek into NASA’s future plans.
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