Man landing on Mars and returning to the moon could happen sooner than some people may think. On Wednesday, NASA successfully tested a new rocket engine, the J-2X, that puts the organization on track for a new deep space launch in 2017.

In the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the rocket engine roared for nearly 500 seconds as it passed all of the important tests that NASA researchers conducted.  The J-2X also performed well in a quick survey by scientists after the test.   

We're going to make this happen, said Dan Dumbacher, leader of NASA's Space Launch System development effort, according to Al.com.  The J-2X engine is critical to the development of the Space Launch System, 

Dumbacher continued to say that the test brings the United States closer than ever to achieving deep space flights. Data from the test will continue to be analyzed as NASA engineers continue to prepare for additional tests. 

The J-2X was designed and built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyn.   The rocket uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for fuel which can generate about 300,000 pounds of thrusting power, according to Al.com. 

Researchers indicate that the exhaust cloud that rocket and fuel produce is similar to a rain cloud.

The reason we test ... the number of engines we test is based upon the need to demonstrate the engine performance, also repeatability and to get an understanding of how the hardware will work in the various environments it will have to operate, and to demonstrate our processes and procedures, said Dumbacker.

With the successful test of a new rocket, NASA is also planning to test the Orion in 2014.  The Orion is a new deep space capsule designed to send astronauts to the Moon and to Mars.  The plan is to have the capsule orbit around the earth two times, before falling back into the atmosphere at speeds over 20,000 mph.  This would surpass the 17,500 mph speed of a returning space shuttle.

NASA has all ready spent about $5 billion on the Orion program, while Russia is still struggling in its attempts to reach the Red Planet.

The Orion project comes off the heels of the cancelled moon exploration project known as Constellation. 

The unmanned test will cost NASA approximately $370 million dollars to launch the capsule. 

We look forward to adding to the legacy as we fulfill our responsibility to test engines that will power America's next launch vehicle, said Stennis Director Patrick Scheuermann, according to Sacbee.com.