U.S. astronauts will launch to the moon on sleek, single, shuttle booster rockets and the first new upper-stage rocket this country has developed in more than a decade, NASA and the Pentagon have told the White House.
Lunar landers and other gear needed for extended visits to the moon will be lofted by gargantuan launchers as big as the Apollo-era Saturn 5, the most powerful rockets ever flown.
The new moon rockets, cobbled together primarily from proven shuttle components, still will blast off from Kennedy Space Center. But the transition from the shuttle to moon missions will change the face of the Brevard County spaceport.
Landmark facilities such as the hangars where the orbiters are readied for flight likely will be shuttered as the orbiters retire in 2010. NASA no longer will need the KSC runway for shuttle landings or the factory where workers hand-craft heat-shielding tiles and blankets.