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Atlantis opens next chapter, says NASA

07-03-2011 12:09 BJT

BEIJING, July 3 (Xinhuanet) -- The Atlantis mission to be launched by NASA on July 8 will not be an end to the space age, as some media suggest.

Although it is the final mission of the space shuttle, it will open up "the next chapter" in the United States' space exploration, NASA's administrator Charles Bolden Jr said at the National Press Club in Washington on Friday.

"When I hear people say - or listen to media reports - that the final shuttle flight marks the end of US human space flight, I have to say . . . these folks must be living on another planet," he said.

"As a former astronaut and the current NASA administrator, I'm here to tell you that American leadership in space will continue for at least the next half-century because we have laid the foundation for success - and for NASA, failure is not an option," he said.

One of the foundations is the "unprecedented" research capabilities the International Space Station (ISS) now possesses, largely thanks to the space shuttle missions.

Although some media imply that "the game will be up" once the ISS is out of orbit in 2020, he said the splendid research results and rich knowledge astronauts and scientists have accumulated through more than 1,200 experiments since 1998 have laid out "a stepping-stone to the rest of the solar system and the tip of what comes next".

As NASA turns a new page, it will "focus on deep space exploration", while leaving US private companies to operate low Earth orbit transportation systems for tourism and business, he said.

NASA will develop "a deep space crew vehicle and an evolvable heavy-lift rocket," he said. The moon, asteroids and Mars will be the next destinations for humans to live and work, he said.

"We will maintain and grow US leadership in space and derive all the benefits that flow from it. Tomorrow's space program is taking shape right now," he said.



Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: China Daily

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