NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says that human space flight for America will not end with the retirement of the shuttle program. Instead, the space agency plans to refocus its efforts from lower-orbit vehicles to deeper space probes.
"Today NASA and the nation want to touch an asteroid and eventually send humans to Mars," he told a luncheon crowd at the National Press Club on Friday. Bolden highlighted two new NASA programs that will eventually "open up the entire solar system to us."
NASA is near a decision and announcement on a new heavy-lift rocket space launch system.
Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled for liftoff on July 8 for a 12-day mission to the International Space Station, marking the final flight for the shuttle program. NASA hopes to sign contracts with several U.S. companies to provide the services that shuttles currently provides.
"The space shuttle has been very good to this country. It is an incredible ship that is difficult to let go. In just one week from today, the space shuttle will rocket off the planet one last time. We will all be a little sad for a while," said astronaut Mark Kelly, who recently announced his retirement so that he could spend more time with recuperating wife Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
The Daily Galaxy via Reuters.com