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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — NASA’s top officials toured the Marshall Space Flight Center Tuesday to see progress made in Huntsville’s role in planning the Artemis missions, the agency’s biggest project yet.

“We’re essentially building a blueprint for how we’re going to send humans into space and beyond, (and) beyond low-earth orbit where we can get up and down fairly quickly,” Deputy NASA Administrator Pam Melroy said. But in fact (a blueprint) to go on beyond the moon to Mars and who knows where next.”

Administrator Bill Nelson said the minds of the engineers and scientists at Marshall Space Flight Center will get us there.

“(NASA employees in Huntsville) have a very special part in our nation’s history, in our nation’s space program,” Nelson said.

However, Nelson said the facilities that Huntsville’s engineers have to work with could use some work themselves. Nelson said President Biden’s Build Back Better bill brings needed infrastructure improvements should it pass in Washington.

“There’s a low-level laboratory here that it’s on its last legs,” Nelson said. “That building needs to be torn down and replaced. That’s the kind of stuff that we’ve got to get passed.”

As for the launches of Artemis II, III, and IV getting pushed behind schedule, Nelson, Melroy, and former shuttle astronaut Robert Gibson each spoke from experience that good things come to those who wait.

“We’re going to be more efficient,” Melroy said. “We’re going to learn from that with Artemis II, III, IV, and beyond. But what we’re doing nobody else has the capability to do. Absolutely no one.”

“Space is very challenging and unforgiving,” Gibson said. “And we are going to have delays. There is just no way around it. I think when we look at the schedule of Artemis and the schedule of the SLS rocket, it has actually done quite well when you look at the challenge and the magnitude of what had to be put together and what had to be done. Marshall Space Flight Center has done a brilliant job.”

NASA says final preparations are in the works for Artemis I, an unmanned test flight, and hope for a February launch.