In 2004 a concept for a new program to send humans back to the Moon and out to Mars was announced by NASA as part of the Vision for Exploration. Under the label of the Constellation Program, a new Crew Exploration Vehicle was pro­posed for human crews to meet those objectives and eventually received the name Orion. In 2005 designs were sought from industry and in August 2006 Lockheed Martin Corporation won the contract. Development began on the spacecraft and program as the replacement for the Space Shuttle, but the change of administra­tion in the White House and a new President saw the cancellation of Constellation as originally envisaged. Orion was redesignated the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and is currently undergoing development for a wide range of missions to the Moon, Mars, and the asteroids as well as a backup vehicle for cargo and crews

An artist’s impression of the proposed Orion spacecraft.

A future Orion-class spacecraft docks with the ISS.

supporting ISS operations. Numerous ground and atmospheric tests and mock-ups have been developed and though it is expected that the first unmanned flight tests of the vehicle in space will commence around 2014, the first astronauts are not expected to fly on board the MPCV/Orion before 2020.

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