Orion at Kennedy Space Center
NASA unveiled its latest spacecraft Monday- the Orion- which is intended for deep space exploration including a future mission to Mars. The agency and its supporters say as long as funding continues, the future of the program looks bright.
(Image: KSC director Bob Cabana, US Senator Bill Nelson, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver in front of the Orion spacecraft)
Inside the vast, echoing building at Kennedy Space Center where Orion will be assembled, a promotional video played on a big screen next to the new crew module.
Right now it’s an unfinished green cylinder- more Apollo than shuttle- but that doesn’t matter to US Senator and former astronaut Bill Nelson.
“Isn’t this beautiful. And I know there’s a lot of people here that can’t wait to get their hands and their fingers on this hardware," Senator Nelson told the crowd of officials, NASA employees and media.
"And, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to Mars," he added.
A large part of NASA's nearly 18 billion dollar budget is going into developing Orion.
The agency’s deputy administrator Lori Garver says NASA is already working to get the most out of every dollar
“Of course even tougher choices would have to be made if our budget were to be cut further,” said Garver.
The long range goal is a mission to mars by 2035, but the first test flight for the spacecraft is just two years away.
Exploration Flight Test 1 will see the Orion blast into space atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV heavy lift rocket in 2014. NASA hopes to have its own heavy lift rocket ready for a space flight by 2017.