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Surprising Science

Space Capsule Aims for Asteroids, Martian Moons

Originally part of George W. Bush’s moon mission, a spaceship from N.A.S.A. based on an Orion space capsule is being re-purposed for missions to astroids and moons around Mars.

What’s the Latest Development?

While George W. Bush’s mission to land on the moon was scrapped, some of the technology it helped inspire will be saved. The Orion space craft is the landing module which would have been used for a moon landing but is instead being repurposed for future missions to asteroids and moons around Mars. “Design and engineering work on the capsule is being done by Lockheed Martin at two locations in the Denver area, in suburban Lakewood and in Waterton Canyon south of Denver. Final assembly on a ground test version is also under way in Colorado.”

What’s the Big Idea?

The project’s continuation will be an immediate boon for area businesses and an long-term boon for the space program, which is looking for new directions now that the shuttle program is all but retired. “N.A.S.A. awarded Lockheed Martin a $7.5 billion contract in 2006 to build Orion. N.A.S.A. said about $5 billion has been spent. … When it unveiled the test capsule in March, Lockheed Martin said it could first explore the far side of the moon, then land humans on asteroids and eventually take them to one of the moons of Mars.”


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