Nasa has revealed the space capsule which it hopes will one day carry astronauts to the surface of Mars.
The Orion space capsule might look like the craft which took astronauts to the Moon, they insist it is far more advanced – and can do far more.
The olive-green “pressure shell” might not look too impressive, but space industry leaders say it should power the next phase of space exploration for decades.
“Isn’t this beautiful,” Senator Bill Nelson said to an audience researchers at the 16-foot wide capsule’s unveiling. “I know there is a lot of people here who can’t wait to get their hands and fingers on this hardware.
Scheduled to fly its first manned mission in nine (nine!) years, in 2021, the Orion has now arrived at the Kennedy Space Center for development before a test flight in 2014.
On that test flight the capsule will be launched on a Delta-4 Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, and will orbit Earth twice at 15 times the height of than the International Space Station.
Eventually the Orion will be launched on the Space Launch System, which itself is scheduled to become one of the most powerful rockets ever made when it is tested in 2017.
“The future is here, now,” Kennedy Space Center’s director Robert Cabana told Space.com. “The vehicle we see here today is not a Powerpoint chart. It is a real spacecraft moving toward a test flight in 2014.”