Nasa Dusts Off Apollo 11 Engines For Possible Future Mission To Mars

Nasa might be going back to the future.

According to the AP, the American space agency is testing an engine once destined for the Apollo 11 space craft for a future journey into deep space.

The 18-foot-tall engine - known as F-6049 to the Nasa team - was grounded after a glitch during testing back in the 1960s, and sat in the Smithsonian Institute for years instead of making its glorious way to space.

But now engineers are looking again at parts of the engine, and specifically its technical system and propellants, for the first time since the launch of the space shuttle in 1981.

The problem is that while Nasa - and commercial partners like SpaceX - are now very good at launching rockets into Earth's orbit, it hasn't been necessary to go beyond for some time.

As a result all-new systems are needed before a mission to the Moon - or Mars - could be attempted.

The F-6049 engine's gas generator - effectively its starter - is still able to produce 30,000 pounds of thrust, and engineers want to know if its mechanisms can form the basis of a second generation.

Nasa has already completed 11 test firings of the generator.

Now, the old engine isn't going to go into space, but could help Nasa understand what they have to do to produce a new range of F1 rockets, which are the full-scale engines that can power a craft past Earth's gravity.