As someone who has always been fascinated with man's travels into space, I couldn't help but investigate and ask, what's next ? How and when would American's get back into space and what is the plan?

It turns out that there is a lot of work already underway to pursue much more lofty goals, such as giving low orbital flights, such as the shuttle has been taking, over to private interests, allowing NASA to focus it's energies and budget on deeper space exploration and manned travel beyond the moon, to places like Mars and beyond.

I'm posting outtakes from articles I've found as well as videos to delve deeper into what we can expect this great country to achieve in our pursuit of the final frontier.

First let's take a look at the final launch of the final space shuttle mission, Atlantis., AP

Here's what NASA has to say about the future:

Exploration at NASA

This is the beginning of a new era in space exploration where we will build the capabilities to send humans deeper into space than ever before.

We will use the International Space Station as a test bed and stepping stone for the challenging journey ahead. We are changing the way we do business, fostering a commercial industry that will safely service low Earth orbit so we can focus our energy and resources on sending astronauts to an asteroid and eventually to Mars. The road ahead is challenging but this approach and space exploration architecture puts us in a position to go where no human has gone before.

So what is in the cards for future human exploration? Here's great video that explains what NASA envisions. Change is inevitable.

NASA NASA is already working on the ORION Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV). It will be launched from atop a rocket as in the days of the Apollo missions.

So exactly what does the Orion MPCV look like?

When we do make it to these far off destinations, what will the living conditions be like? NASA is working on that as well. The Habitat Demonstration Unit - Deep Space Habitat (HDU DSH)

NASA How will America keep the International Space Station supplied, while this new phase for NASA moves forward? Several answers apply here. Private and international companies and governments will bid for the rights to send supplies to the ISS. Here's NASA's solution. The SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft launched from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Let's not forget our first landing on the moon. I cannot forget the day. I stayed up into the middle of the night in 1969 just to watch.

I am personally just giddy about all of the developments going on that frankly even I, a supergeek was unaware of. Thank goodness for Googling !

So what are your thoughts on the end of the Shuttle program and the beginning of a new era of space adventure?