NASA has decided to use designs originally planned for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle as the basis for a new transportation system that will carry U.S. astronauts into deep space in the future, NASA chief Charles Bolden said.
"As we aggressively continue our work on a heavy lift launch vehicle, we are moving forward with an existing contract to keep development of our new crew vehicle on track," Bolden said on Tuesday.
The Orion vehicle, which resembles the legendary Apollo spacecraft, was part of the Constellation program meant to return U.S. astronauts to the Moon and bring them to Mars.
The program was folded by the current Obama administration in 2010, but Lockheed Martin continued work on the Orion project to develop a Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV).
According to NASA, the MPCV will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.
The new spacecraft will be capable of carrying four astronauts for 21-day missions and be able to land in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.
"It is designed to be 10 times safer during ascent and entry than its predecessor, the space shuttle," NASA said.
WASHINGTON, May 25 (RIA Novosti)