NEW ORLEANS - NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver checked out progress on major portions of the Orion spacecraft, and the huge Space Launch System rocket that will launch the capsule to the Moon and Mars during a visit Friday.
"It's great to see the progress here," Garver said. "It's been about a year since I've been here, and really I couldn't be more pleased."
Lockheed Martin is working on the Orion capsule, while Boeing has huge welding machines for the Space Launch System rocket. Garver is pleased to see new activity at Michoud after the Space Shuttle External Tank program shut down.
"It is not quiet compared to a couple of years ago," said Garver. "I rode my bike around this facility a couple of years ago, and there was nobody here."
"We're gonna be a lot busier in about two years," said Boeing Space Exploration Director Rick Navarro. "We're gonna have to double the work force, and then we'll add 100 more per year until we reach full production."
So how happy are people to get back here?
"I tell you quite honestly, they almost kiss the ground when they get here," Navarro said. "They are so happy to be back home."
"We give 120 percent on everything we do, because it's that important," said Ron Hindman, a former Space Shuttle tank maker who is now a fabrication specialist on the new Boeing rocket.
"Very exciting work," added Mark Jackson.
A big metal ring at the facility is the first actual piece of the Space Launch System to be built, and built here at Michoud. It gives those who see it an idea of how big this new rocket will be, even though this one will be used just for testing. But the first crew mission is scheduled for 2021, and NASA already knows where they're going.
"Astronauts will be going to an asteroid to better understand these amazing celestial objects," concluded Lori Garver about the $3 billion program.