It has been 47 years since the last Apollo mission went into outer space. Yet, despite the four decades that have passed, the newest NASA project, the Orion spacecraft, still sports the same facade of its predecessors.
One such similarity is found in its plating, which uses Avcoat, a substance that can endure rapid changes in temperature. According to a statement from experts, however, the agency’s newest space mobile has been fitted with technology to ensure that it can travel further distances. The computers, for example, are a dozen times faster than the ones on the International Space Station and a thousand times faster than those used in previous Apollo missions.
When asked about the spacecraft’s design, which can carry up to six astronauts, Orion’s program manager for Lockheed Martin, Mike Hawes, stated that the shape was maintained because it was the most efficient for providing a safe re-entry from the velocities of returning from space.
The agency hopes to perfect the Orion spacecraft with the ultimate goal of sending four astronauts to space for long duration deep space missions. In time, the craft may also enable people to reach asteroids and even the Red Planet itself.
NASA, in collaboration with Lockheed Martin, launched an Orion spacecraft last December, 5 2014, atop a rocket operated by the United Launch Alliance, the Delta IV Heavy, at 7:05 AM. This was the Exploration Test Flight 1 (EFT-1), which cost approximately $370 million. The unmanned flight was to orbit the Earth twice, reaching an altitude of 3600 miles, with speeds of 20,000 mph. The Orion project manager Mark Geyer, of the Johnson Space Center, along with Hawes, recently thanked a team of 15 people from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory last Wednesday for helping in the December test flight.
Now, with help from the federal government and a budget of $ 1.1 billion a year, the series of Orion missions are closer to their goals. The next milestone to be reached by the agency is the Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), scheduled for September 2018. In 2021, NASA also plans to send a crew for a flyby lasting a few days in high lunar orbit, and hopes to launch the second SLS mission, involving the Space Launch System, which is capable of sending humans to deep space.