Tuesday, May 24, 2011
NASA unveiled today the future vehicle of American space travel which will carry humanity beyond the International Space Station and out into deep space and the moon.
Based on the plans for the Orion spacecraft, a new spacecraft known as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, or MPCV, will be able to carry four astronauts on a voyage of up to three weeks, according to NASA Headquarters.
NASA's associate administrator for Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, Douglas Cooke, told this reporter today that no time line has been established for the first test launch of this new system.
Cooke then added later that the first crewed flight would occur no earlier than 2016.
"We are committed to human exploration beyond low Earth orbit and look forward to developing the next generation of systems to take us there," NASA administrator Charlie Bolden said in a statement.
MPCV is built by Lockheed Martin Corp. in Colorado, the module will have a separate service module which will be jettisoned prior to it's return to earth. NASA states "this module can also transport unpressurized cargo and scientific payloads" during flights.
"The NASA Authorization Act lays out a clear path forward for us by handing off transportation to the International Space Station to our private sector partners, so we can focus on deep space exploration," Bolden continued. "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."
The crewed vehicle -- which will have a mass of around 23 tons -- will launch on a heavy-lift rocket toward a destination past the space station and beyond low earth orbit to the moon.
The spacecraft is based on designs and testing of the Orion craft going back to 2005, and on the Apollo spacecrafts of the 1960's and 70's.
The spacecraft would land much like the Apollo modules with a Pacific Ocean splashdown near the coastline of California.
Today's announcement comes fifty years after President John F. Kennedy's "We choose to go to the Moon" speech at Rice University in September 1961.