To embark on its next chapter in human space exploration, NASA has created a new department to oversee manned spaceflight in the post-space-shuttle era.
The department is called the Human Exploration and Operations Mission
Directorate, and combines two previous organizations, the Space
Operations Directorate and the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.
The reorganization is part of top-to-bottom changes moving through the
space agency, which finds itself at a turning point. This year NASA
retired its 30-year-old space shuttle program,
which was the focus and most visible part of its activities over the
last few decades. The agency is now gearing up for an era of human
missions to deep space, including trips back to the moon, then on to
asteroids and Mars.
President Obama has charged NASA to put astronauts on a space rock by
2025, and on the Red Planet by the mid 2030s. To reach those goals, the
United States must develop a new heavy-lift rocket capable of traveling that far, and a capsule to bring people safely there and back again.
AWESOME. You know, I’ve never been one of those kids who personally dreamed of being an astronaut or anything, but the increasing lack of interest in the space program over the last two decades has been extremely depressing to me. I just think humans should always be exploring, and looking for new things — it’s not exactly a revolutionary stance, I know, but moving forward is progress and standing still is… not, frankly. But if a man can land on Mars in my lifetime, I’ll have considered this a Good Time to be alive.