CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Nearly two years after the space shuttle Columbia (search) exploded as it returned to Earth, NASA — armed with a $16.2 billion budget this year — is once again daring to dream big dreams.
"Today we have a new course for America's space program," President Bush said at NASA (search) headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 14. "We will give NASA a new focus and vision for future exploration."
The space agency, armed with the unprecedented federal funding, says it is focused on the heavens and beyond.
"We've got the resources now to do that ... it doesn't cover everything, it covers the things that are necessary for those priorities," said NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe (search). "That's going to be the challenge ahead of us."
The five percent, one-year budget increase came on the heels of a report by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (search), which recommended NASA not cut corners when it comes to safety.
"Safety is the cornerstone of our business — always has been, always will be," said David Martin, a rocket booster manager for NASA. "We're human beings — were not infallible — we make mistakes. Columbia was a reminder to us of just those things."
The space shuttle Discovery isn't scheduled for launch until sometime between May and June of next year. In the meantime, NASA's two top priorities — finishing the international space station (search) and repairing the Hubble telescope — both carry multi-million dollar price tags. And both projects are still on hold.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Orlando Salinas.