NASA successfully tested the first deep space RS-25 rocket engine for 500 seconds March 10, clearing a major milestone toward the next great era of space exploration.

The next time engine rocket engine No. 2059 fires for that length of time, it will be carrying humans on their first deep-space mission in more than 45 years.

“What a great moment for NASA and Stennis,” said Rick Gilbrech, director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. “We have exciting days ahead with a return to deep space and a journey to Mars, and this test is a very big step in that direction.”

The hot fire marked the first test of an RS-25 flight engine for NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS), being built to carry humans on future deep-space missions, including an asteroid and Mars. Four RS-25 engines will help power the SLS core stage.

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