HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - NASA officials are more confident than ever about the future of space exploration. Friday, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver from Washington was in town to talk with employees about the 2014 budget and to take a tour of all that is happening at Stennis Space Center.
One test stand is being used by two different private companies. And the largest test stand in the world, which has been out of service for more than a decade, is undergoing renovations to be able to test NASA's new spacecraft designed for deep space exploration.
"We have, as I told employees today, very strong bipartisan support for the NASA plan," Garver said. "The $17.7 billion budget request is, we believe, moving forward with the nation's space program."
The budget will allow NASA to continue work on the new Space Launch System, or SLS, to get to an asteroid or Mars, and also to support private space taxis to launch American astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
"We have with this budget proposal fully funded the SLS Orion architecture to test our first flight of Orion in just over a year in 2014, test a SLS rocket in 2017, and remain on track with our first crew in 2021," Garver said.
"It's extremely important that we continue to maintain our space leadership," Congressman Steven Palazzo said. "It's something that has been exceptional and part of the pride that has made American generations proud."
Palazzo stressed during these tough economic times the budget is extremely tight, but there is bipartisan support to keep NASA space exploration going.
"We get a huge return on our investment," Palazzo said.
Hancock County has played a vital role in the success of the space program and Garver assured the future of it too.
"SLS is the future and is absolutely dependent on Stennis and on this test stand," Garver said.
The $17.7 billion proposed NASA budget is only half of one percent of the nation's budget, but it is more than any other space program in the world.