NEW ORLEANS - Several hundred workers welcomed NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to the Michoud Assembly Facility to see their efforts on the next generation of space-craft, the capsule Orion and the giant Space Launch Systems rocket.
"We make the impossible possible," Bolden told them. "We turn science fiction into science fact."
"The energy," said Boeing Engineer Dramar Saul. "You see me smiling, I get goose bumps every time I walk through this place."
Where Space Shuttle external tanks were once built, huge, high tech welding machines are making test versions of the parts for the huge rocket ship's 200-foot fuel tank.
"For the last two years, this team has transformed this place from a dark place where bunch of empty equipment was lying around to a state of the art manufacturing facility," said Space Launch System Project Manager Todd May.
"I relocated back home after eight years in San Antonio after Hurricane Katrina," said Saul.
Engineer Dramar Saul is one of over 300 workers building the rocket and capsule now, and the number could double. Saul's nephew knows he is making space history.
"He wants to come to work with me now at six years old," laughed Saul.
"Your work is so important to the nation, and to the state and local economy," said Senator David Vitter.
The Orion capsule makes its first test flight this September, and then the rocket's first test flight, September of 2017, when this 28-foot ring, this is the first piece built here at Michoud that will fly in space."
"And I think you're going to find Michoud will continue its legacy of being the place where we assemble spacecraft," said Bolden. The NASA Chief and Senator Vitter made a short phone call to the International Space Station from Michoud, thanking the astronauts for efforts to replace a key unit that failed, and to snag a resupply ship carrying groceries.