The US space exploration agency NASA today confirmed that the vehicle it will use to send astronauts into deep space – on missions like investigating asteroids – will be based on the Orion capsule concept.
Orion, chiefly developed by Lockheed Martin, was meant to resume sending Americans to the moon, but the project was cancelled last year by President Barack Obama for being behind schedule and over budget.
NASA says the financial investment and engineering lessons learned should not be wasted.
NASA administrator Charles Bolden said the designs for Orion would be used to forge ahead with a new spacecraft called the multi-purpose crew vehicle (MPCV), which would lift off atop a massive rocket and someday take explorers to an asteroid and Mars.
"We are committed to human exploration beyond low-earth orbit, and look forward to developing the next generation of systems to take us there," Bolden said in a statement.
Obama has said he would like humans to visit a space rock in the 2020s. The MPCV is meant to be the ship that takes them there. It would also have a role in any human mission to Mars - the destination NASA is aiming to reach in the 2030s.