ORLANDO, Fla. – NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden told reporters at Kennedy Space Center Saturday he expects NASA to launch a big rocket in the 2020s that would pave the way for human exploration of space beyond low Earth orbit.
“The nation needs a heavy-lift launch vehicle capability,” said Bolden, speaking on the eve of today’s launch of Endeavour, the fifth-to-last shuttle mission. “Ideally, I would like to be flying a heavy-lift capability between 2020 and 2030.”
That milestone begins filling in the blanks of a broad new policy outlined by the White House last week, which cancels NASA’s Constellation moon program and relies on commercial spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station after the shuttle is retired this year.
Left vague were plans as to how the new NASA would actually meet President Barack Obama’s goal of sending astronauts back to the moon or to nearby asteroids. Bolden said it was “critical” to keep plans for heavy-lift rockets.
The White House plans have sapped morale at the Kennedy Space Center, where 7,000 workers expect to lose their jobs when the space shuttle retires this year.