HOUSTON (FOX 26) - NASA's next giant leap is to return to the moon by 2024.
The next journey to the moon will begin with the Orion spacecraft.
"We are your ticket to the moon. This is the vehicle the crew will launch in and return back home in," said Stu McClung, NASA engineer.
It looks similar to Apollo's capsule from the outside but is actually bigger and can hold four astronauts. We toured a full scale mock up at Johnson Space Center.
The Orion spacecraft is built to take humans farther than they've ever gone before, including possibly the first woman to the moon.
"I think that would be awesome. If we accomplish that, that's another big step for mankind. It would definitely be worth going back up," said Oscar Bustillos, a visitor.
50 years after the Apollo 11 moon landing, NASA engineer Stu McClung remembers it well.
"I was eight. We were on a family vacation in Colorado, black and white TV in the hotel. I don't remember a lot of things from my childhood, but I remember that," said McClung.
He worked on the shuttle program and is now a part of the team trying to send a crew to the moon by 2024.
We asked, "How optimistic are you we're going to get to the moon in 2024?"
"It's funny. I think a lot of us engineers like that challenge. We want to fly, so let's wrap our arms around that and let's go after that," said McClung.
Orion would launch on top of a space launch system rocket designed to be more powerful than the Saturn V from Apollo. NASA tested the Orion launch abort system this month.
"It was a very, very successful test that demonstrated to us that if we had an emergency the launch abort system would perform the way we expect it to," said McClung.
But there's still work to do. Orion is supposed to fly to a mini space station called Gateway, where the crew would take a lunar lander to the moon's surface. Designs are still being worked out. Mars is also calling as the world waits to see what the next giant leap will be.