Despite rumors that the space shuttle missions would resume this fall,
NASA has just announced the the earliest launch would be March 2005.
The New York Times
"Officials of the agency(NASA) had already indicated recently that the next shuttle flight, tentatively scheduled for September or October, would
probably be moved to early 2005 because more time was needed for modifications."
One suprise announcement was that the next shuttle launch would have a backup shuttle on standby in case there was a problem with the mission, and the
crew was stranded on the International Space Station. NASA realizes that the whole world will be watching the next launch with close scrutiny. After
China's sucessful mission, the United States is under pressure to keep up it's status as the leader in space exploration. While the success of both
of the Mars lander mission is a noteworthy, manned space flight has always been the holy grail. This was reinforced with President Bush's
announcement to have more manned moon missions, and eventually a manned mission to Mars.
[Edited on 20-2-2004 by Kano]