NASA previews rocket that will eventually help launch missions to Mars

NEW ORLEANS -- NASA previewed its most powerful rocket Tuesday at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans East.

The rocket was built for deep space missions, and it will be shipped by NASA's barge "Pegasus" from Michoud to Alabama for structural testing.

Completion of the rocket represents major progress toward obtaining critical test data before the rocket will be launched into space.

The "Orion" spacecraft will not have humans aboard, but paves the way for future missions with astronauts.

Ultimately, "Orion" will help NASA prepare for future missions to Mars.

During its first flight, however, the spacecraft will travel thousands of miles beyond the moon for a three-week mission.

First, the rocket will be pushed and pulled, to see how it can withstand extreme forces during launch, liftoff and flight.