Now we are learning answers to both of those questions. It was an all-hands-on-deck meeting at Johnson Space Center. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden talked to employees about the future of human space flight and their roles in it while getting a firsthand look at a mockup of Orion, the capsule designed to take us to deep space.
"This is not just about Houston," Bolden said. "This is about the nation. But it's about the critical role that Houston plays in it. We have always operated human space flight from here and that's not going to change."
The Orion multipurpose crew module is 15 feet around and 15 feet high. The first full scale model was revealed during the tour. The capsule will one day ride atop the recently announced space launch system, a rocket visibly reminiscent of those from the Apollo days.
Congress has allocated NASA $3 billion a year for the next five years. The space agency, though, is cutting costs as it can.
"We have to be affordable," Bolden said. "We've got to change the way we do business."
To that end, devices designed for the mockup are created not by professionals but by students. One from Booker T. Washington High School in Houston is a snorkel for use in the Orion upon splashdown. Even university students find the program mutually beneficial.
"It definitely gives me hope for the future of America," said Phillip Reyes, who helped design a portion of the mockup.
Bolden laid out a general timeline of getting Orion into space. They're targeting the first non-crewed flight by 2017, the first manned flight by 2021, sending humans to an asteroid by 2025 and then to Mars potentially in the 2030s.
It's a future maybe not so distant.