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Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

NEW ORLEANS -- Industry Day drew a standing-room only crowd to NASA's huge Michoud Assembly Facility, or MAF. Ninety companies from as far away as Alaska came here hoping to help build the next generation of rockets, and came away impressed with Michoud.

'It's incredibly exciting,' said Chris Jackson of Huntsville, Alabama. 'The next generation of space flight, and just to be a part of it. In Huntsville, sometimes we're not exposed to all the capabilities. Here at MAF, it's just an amazing facility.'

Already major parts of a new space capsule called Orion are being built at Michoud. Now NASA wants to build the core of a huge new rocket called the Space Launch System at Michoud.

'We could go to an asteroid, we could go to the Moon, we can go to Mars. We like to say after the first couple of test flights, 'Ladies and gentlemen, you're now free to move about the Solar System,' said Todd May of the Space Launch System.

But for workers like welder Barry Erminger, this means jobs.

'Hope to have 10,000 people back at Michoud Assembly Facility like it was in the younger days,' he said.

Michoud has been part of the space race since the Apollo Moon missions. But now the huge machines used to build the external tanks for the Space Shuttle sit wrapped in plastic. Yet they're getting ready to ramp things up out here for the Space Launch System rocket, putting New Orleans back in space exploration.

'We're excited that the core stage for the largest vehicle ever built by mankind is going to be built right here in New Orleans,' said Roy Malone of the Michoud Assembly Facility.

May said it's going to be 'hundreds of jobs by the end of next year.'

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