It appears we spoke too soon. Just when we were thinking the US space program was dead in the water, and that NASA would never reveal its plans for the next generation rocket launch system that will replace the space shuttle,  NASA steps up and does just that.

The Space Launch System will be a behemoth of a rocket that harkens back to the giant workhorse liquid fuel rockets that propelled men to the moon. But this time the destinations will be much farther out and the rocket even more powerful.

The much delayed rocket design will cost about $35 billion, and NASA hopes to start test launching in six years.

Plans are to launch its first unmanned test flight in 2017 with the first crew flying in 2021 and astronauts heading to a nearby asteroid in 2025.

From there, NASA hopes to send the rocket and astronauts to Mars — at first just to circle, but then later landing on the Red Planet — in the 2030s.

via APNewsBreak: NASA unveils giant new rocket design - Yahoo! News.

This announcement comes only days after Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Bill Nelson of Florida demanded that NASA get its act together and take firm and positive steps to preserve America's pre-eminence in space exploration.