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NASA's new launch system at Michoud will let us explore Mars, outer solar system: A letter to the ed

A new era of space exploration was hailed Friday (Sept. 12) at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility with the formal opening of the state-of-the-art vertical assembly center in eastern New Orleans. The massive core stages of the Space Launch System deep space exploration vehiclewill be built at Michoud - the same place that brought the nation the mighty Saturn V rocket and the Space Shuttle's external tanks.

There's no other rocket in the world like the Space Launch System. It will be the largest rocket ever built. And it is designed to launch bigger and heavier payloads than ever before. It will allow NASA to send humans to deep space destinations never before explored. And it will give us the ability to do more things than we've ever been able to accomplish -- sample asteroids, visit the frozen lakes of the outer solar system and put the first human footprints on Mars. Another advantage to SLS is the ability to do things that are currently impossible, especially launching larger scientific spacecraft with more instruments to far-off destinations with shorter transit times.

Michoud has been essential to our nation's space program for 50 years and will continue that role with SLS. The Saturn V first stage was built here in the 1960s. The Space Shuttle external tanks were built here for more than 30 years. Now, the last manufacturing tools are in place for welding and assembling the core stage of NASA's new Space Launch System rocket.

Over the past five years, Michoud has been transformed to a more-efficient multi-agency, multi-use facility that strengthens the local economy, the agencies located there and the nation. Since 2009, NASA has invested more than $1 billion at Michoud, ensuring the production facility is a high-tech hub. The facility's features have attracted other federal agencies and private companies and today approximately 3,500 people work at Michoud. The facility creates about 5,400 jobs in Louisiana and Mississippi with a regional economic impact of $850 million. The state of Louisiana also has been vital to the facility's revitalization, investing more than $60 million and partnering with NASA in the National Center for Advanced Manufacturing, led by Louisiana State University and housed at Michoud, supporting aerospace manufacturing research, development and innovation critical to the goals of the nation's space program.

SLS is designed to do the big, exciting, daring things this nation expects from our vibrant space program.

With the help of the Michoud Assembly Facility and the people of New Orleans, this remarkable launch vehicle will take the nation to new heights.

Patrick Scheuermann


NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

Huntsville, Ala.

- By Letters to the Editor, | The Times-Picayune

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