Science fiction is slowly giving way to reality at NASA. Monday morning, it unveiled its new Orion capsule - a ship that will define the new future of American manned-space exploration.
"It will travel farther into space than any spacecraft designed for humans has flown in the 40 years since our astronauts went to the moon," Lori Carver, a NASA Deputy Administrator, said.
The specific destination is deep space. The Orion team has an ambitious goal: an unmanned test flight in just two years, to travel to an asteroid by the 2020s and a trip to Mars a decade later.
"It's a new and exciting chapter in America's great space exploration story, one that will see more discoveries, more scientific return and more people and Americans going into space and going places that have never before been visited," Carver said.
A long-range vision made possible in part by a new partnership with private companies to handle low-Earth orbit and service to the International Space Station, giving NASA scientists the space to focus on a trip further into the stars, and giving astronauts the opportunity to dream.
"It's gonna be a tremendous challenge to take a vehicle like this and go off on a three year mission," astronaut Rex Walheim said.
Thankfully, for a struggling industry, the initial benefits of Orion, will come more quickly.
"We, through this program, are going to be ending the outsourcing of American space jobs and bringing them right back here to America and to Florida and to other states across the country," Carver said. "So NASA is a driver of innovation and economic growth - a creator of high-skilled, high-paying jobs and a force for inspiration."
This inspiration could ultimately take us to places we've never been before. The Orion program means an immediate boost of about 350 jobs along the Florida space coast.
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