A NASA facility in New Orleans which is currently building components for a deep-space rocket known as the Space Launch System was damaged by a tornado on Tuesday.
Though the tornado damaged the facility’s exterior and reportedly left one employee injured, the components for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) were left unharmed, according to a full damage assessment.
“You could see it come in the parking lot. It took about a half a dozen cars and picked them up and knocked them over like rag dolls,” said Stephen C. Doering, manager for NASA’s SLS Stages Element Office. “We didn’t get to do a full damage assessment yet, because after the first [tornado] we had to shelter in place as two more of them came by.”
“After the tornado passed, workers smelled gas and were ordered out of the building. But with other tornadoes reported in the area, everyone had to shelter in place again,” reported The Washington Post on Tuesday. “Doering said he had heard of one injury but didn’t know the severity. While the hardware for the new rocket was undamaged, he said, workers were busy patching holes in the building’s exterior, hoping to prevent water damage to the elaborate and expensive equipment used to weld the big fuel tanks.”
In 2013, Space.com reported that the multi-billion dollar SLS could be test-launched as early as 2018, while it could send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s.
“Our nation is embarked on an ambitious space exploration program, and we owe it to the American taxpayers to get it right,” said NASA associate administrator Robert Lightfoot in 2014. “After rigorous review, we’re committing today to a funding level and readiness date that will keep us on track to sending humans to Mars in the 2030s – and we’re going to stand behind that commitment.”