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First Manned Orion Mission In 2023, Says NASA

NASA’s Orion spacecraft will carry astronauts farther into space than ever before. Photo: NASA

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is a step closer to carrying astronauts to deep space. After reviewing the spacecraft’s technical components, officials gave the capsule a go-ahead for a manned test no later than 2023.

Orion project managers remain optimistic, saying they could launch as early as 2021.

NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot hopes early missions to destinations like the moon will lead to exploration further out in the solar system like Mars.

“Orion is a predominant key player in really allowing us to move human presence out of low earth orbit. I think it has a really bright future as we move to deep space,” said Lightfoot.

Lightfoot said the push to 2023 is due to the agency’s history of running into problems during a new program like Orion. NASA’s William Gerstenmaier said budget also plays a role.

“One of the factors in the model is absolute budget, it’s a piece or percentage of that model as we go forward. The certainty or amount of budget we get in any given year does that,” said Gerstenmaier.

NASA will commit $6.77 billion to the first manned mission starting next month.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Intersection' Producer

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts "Are We There Yet?", WMFE's space exploration podcast He also helps produce WMFE's twice-weekly public affairs show "Intersection," working with host Matthew Peddie to shape the ... Read Full Bio »