By Brendan Sasso
NASA unveiled on Wednesday the designs for its latest rocket, the successor to the retired space shuttle.
The rocket, called the Space Launch System, will rely on a liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel system, and NASA hopes it will one day take astronauts to Mars.
Its first flight is planned for 2017.
"This launch system will create good-paying American jobs, ensure continued U.S. leadership in space, and inspire millions around the world," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "President Obama challenged us to be bold and dream big, and that's exactly what we are doing at NASA. While I was proud to fly on the space shuttle, kids today can now dream of one day walking on Mars."
Lawmakers praised the announcement, but criticized the administration for taking so long to move forward with its space exploration plans.
"This decision to proceed with development of the Space Launch System is long overdue," said Reps. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), Chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), Chairman of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee and Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Chairman of the Appropriations' Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies in a joint statement.
"This Administration's lack of commitment for human space exploration has frustrated and angered many of us in Congress who are committed to American leadership in space. The Administration's obstructionism has already resulted in the unnecessary loss of thousands of American jobs, and served to diminish our Nation's leadership and stature among space-faring nations."