NASA pushing initiative to get astronauts on moon and Mars

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Twenty-one billion dollars. That's the proposed budget for NASA, with a lot of it supporting the effort to get back to the moon, and then to Mars.

Monday, ABC13 got an inside look at how they're working to make that happen.

NASA is excited about the future. From the Orion, to the space launch system, to the Gateway moon orbiting module, the scientists and engineers responsible for going to the moon, and then Mars, think the expertise and money is there to make it happen.

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"The fact that all of those pieces that are part of our human exploration program are in the budget is really great news for us here," said Mark Kirasich, the Orion program manager.

The effort to return astronauts to beyond low Earth orbit is multifaceted.

"It's the next frontier for our young folks to not only see themselves going there, but building machines and building suits that will take us there," said Doug Wheelock, a veteran astronaut of six spacewalks.

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The effort also includes bringing things back from space, including rocks from the moon and Mars, which are also critical to our future on other worlds.

"It helps us know how to sustain life there," said Camille Alleyne with Commercial Payload Lunar Services. "That is important. What is the composition that helps us sustain life?"

From the team on the ground, to the team that will rocket into space, there is a renewed sense of purpose and energy here.

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"We really have the technology available with the SLS and Orion to get back to the moon," said flight director Jeff Radigan. "And then we're building in those building blocks to get to the next step, which is Mars."

The $21 billion budget is a six percent increase over last year. Right now, it's only proposed. Both houses of Congress have to vote on it.

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