HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - It was an event in Hancock County that could one day send men further into space than ever before. Monday afternoon the ribbon was cut for a new program to test rocket components for SpaceX, a commercial space flight company. The test program is an important step towards the future of space travel.
It's high tech gadgetry that will test rockets that could eventually blast astronauts to Mars.
"SpaceX and others like them, with the help of NASA, will one day take man to Mars and bring him back safely, but you know and I know they are going to have to pass through Hancock County to get there," said Governor Phil Bryant.
Work crews have spent the past several months modifying the E-2 test stand at Stennis Space Center. The stand will test a methane powered rocket engine. Company leaders say there will be nothing else like it in the world.
"What looks like a modest E-2 test stand, but actually it's going to be one of the most capable high pressured test facilities on the planet," said SpaceX President and COO, Gwynne Shotwell.
Rep. Steven Palazzo, who is chairman of the congressional space subcommittee, says it's partnerships between NASA and commercial companies like SpaceX that will help the nation regain space superiority.
"Most Americans have no idea we are currently paying the Russians $70 million a seat to maintain a U.S. presence on the International Space Station. U.S. leadership in space is not just a matter of national pride but a matter of national security," said Palazzo.
Initially, SpaceX will employ a handful of people at Stennis, but the company hopes to increase its staff as the need for its product grows.
SpaceX hopes to send its first manned flight to Mars within the next 13 to 15 years.
Over the weekend, the company successfully sent cargo to the International Space Station in an un-manned spacecraft.