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Deep Space Exploration: It’s Alive!

This geek loves the modern space race, as it is being called by many. I speak of the resurgence of interest in rockets, spacecraft, and virtually all things space-related. I enjoy all facets of it—whether private, public, international, or domestic. I love it all, as my fellow geeks likely already know.

The recent decommissioning of the U.S. Space Shuttle program, after many decades of successful service, caused a great deal of speculation, concern, and, I’ll say it, despair—especially in a space geek’s life. Patriots questioned whether the U.S. would lose footing as a space super power, as the nation’s space program stagnated and those of other countries flourished. Frankly, it left a gaping hole in the U.S. space program.

Was the U.S. abandoning reusable, reliable, and versatile vehicles designed to transport large loads of cargo and astronauts into low Earth orbit (LEO) and beyond? Geeks everywhere pondered this and other questions. Then, NASA officials surprised us all when they revealed the design for a new deep-space exploration system: a heavy-lift rocket that will take human beings far beyond Earth. What’s this? Interest piqued.

The planned destinations for the Nasa Heavy Lift Rocket and SLS

Just yesterday, 29 Sept. 2011, NASA officials met with aerospace industry to discuss the next U.S. spacecraft and (wait for it) the need to partner with commercial technology vendors. NASA is looking to partner with aerospace market leaders, small businesses, and independent entrepreneurs to bring the rocket—called the Space Launch System, or SLS—to fruition, effectively, reliably, and efficiently.

At first blush, it appears the SLS will help not only deliver astronauts deeper into space than ever before possible, but also infuse the aerospace market with some much-need capital, potentially generate high-quality jobs here in the U.S., and serve as “the cornerstone for America’s future human space exploration efforts,” according to a NASA spokeswoman.

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