NASA administrator checks progress of projects at Michoud facility

NASA administrator visits Michoud

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The man in charge of NASA visited the Michoud assembly plant in New Orleans East Monday to see firsthand the progress being made in the effort to send astronauts to Mars.

The largest rockets ever built are now taking shape at Michoud, with some already being shipped to Florida for assembly.

"We often say the path to the moon and mars goes through New Orleans. Look at the pictures on the wall here - there's a lot of history," said Scott Wilson with the Kennedy Space Center.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine was visiting to see the SLS propulsion system that will be needed to power astronauts to Mars, and the Orion space capsule that will contain astronauts atop a spacecraft that's 38 stories tall.

"When we launch from 39, it will be a proud moment for all of humankind," said NASA astronaut Nicole Mann.

The two programs are beyond the testing stage and are now in production with parts being assembled at Cape Kennedy with a mandate from President Trump.

"We are not going to go out and do like we did last time, planting flags and footprints. He wants a sustainable architecture and be out a long time," said Bridenstine.

But before Orion goes to Mars, it must successfully go to the moon and back. And on the moon, Bridenstine said there may be resources to exploit.

"We now know there are hundreds of tons of water rights on the surface of the moon," he said.

Bridenstine has also consulted with the president on the proposed Space Force space defense initiative.

"We cannot any longer live in a world where we have a strategic Achilles heel and do nothing about it," he said.

NASA hopes to launch Orion for an unmanned flight to the moon within two years. A manned Orion flight is planned for 2021.