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In which Hank discusses NASA's new Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion space vehicle, which are (unlike the space shuttle) designed exclusively for deep-space missions to places including our moon, the asteroids, and Mars.

In other news, I also made a video about the Invisible Children / Kony 2012 campaign because, of course, how could I help myself. It will be at


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A Bunny
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((') (')
Good morning, John

Most people have a bucket list, a list of things that they would like to do before they die. But I-- I have two bucket lists. I have one for myself and one for my species.

It's nice to think about the things you want to do with your own life before you kick the can. Like I wanna go to the Grand Canyon; I wanna soak my butt in the geothermal hot spring in Iceland; I want... Natalie Portman and Emma Stone to simultaneously kiss me on the cheek. Thinking about my own little goals for my own little self is certainly satisfying personally, but I feel like it's a little bit missing the big picture.

In September of 2011 NASA announced the new space launch system: a safer, more flexible, more capable next step in humanity's greatest journey. The men and women sitting on top of the SLS won't be traveling the same humdrum journeys to and from the space station. Instead, they will once again be pushing the boundaries of what humanity can accomplish together.

The SLS, which, it is important to note, will someday be named something cooler than that, is the most powerful rocket ship ever designed, let alone built. Fully equipped, the SLS is taller than the Statue of Liberty, can fit nine school buses inside, and has 286,000 lbs of cargo lift capacity; that is more than 23,000 puppy-sized elephants. Now it's important to note that the SLS is not, in fact, a spaceship; the SLS is the thing that gets the spaceship to space. The spaceship is the brand new, 20,000 lb, four-seater, Orion multipurpose crew vehicle, which, you may have noticed, does not have wings. Actually, the Orion can't have wings. Coming in from deep space, it will be moving 9000 miles per hour faster than the space shuttle ever did, speeds that would literally tear the space shuttle to pieces. But with four times the mass and more than two times the interior volume of the Apollo capsule, this is not your daddy's spaceship.

It's been forty years since we've had a spacecraft capable of taking humans beyond near-earth orbit, and now we're finally going to have that spacecraft again. And thus, it looks like I may actually get to cross off some of the visitation locations from my bucket list for humanity, including the moon.

We know a lot about the moon, because we've been there before, and we've brought back samples and walked around on the surface and even played a little golf. But the number of mysteries that the moon contains has only increased since Apollo. We've discovered that the moon is seismically active; we're almost certain that there are stores of frozen water; the lack of an atmosphere on the moon has preserved pretty much everything that's ever happened there; the secrets that all of those meteorites strewn across the surface of the moon can hold: I want it!


Between Mars and Jupiter there's a vast belt of objects that we call the asteroid belt. But also hanging out in the asteroid belt is Ceres, a dwarf planet that is 600 miles wide and spherical in shape, possibly even containing a subterranean ocean of liquid water. There are unmanned probes now patrolling around the asteroid belt and one of them will be getting to Ceres in 2015, but we're never really gonna know as much as we could know unless we got people on dat rock!


The juiciest fruit in the solar system: a third the size of Earth, atmosphere, a 24 point something hour-long day. The amount there is to learn about our planet, about our solar system, about the history of life and the universe. It took astronauts about three days to get to the moon, to get to Mars is, like, seven months. These missions are difficult, they're dangerous, they're expensive, so we proceed into our solar system with caution. But before the announcement of the SLS and the Orion I was beginning to think that I would never see the day when humanity would set foot on another planet, ready to find the answers to the questions that we already have and, even more exciting, discover all those new questions.

I'm no longer worried about that. If I could live, you know, sort of a manageable amount of time for a guy my age, I should one day see it. And maybe that person taking that first step could be some young nerd watching this video right now and if you're out there, remember me and wave hi, and I'll be sitting at home...REALLY HAPPY, because I got to cross off another thing on our bucket list.

John, I'll see you on Tuesday.