Three years after the US Space shuttle program retired in 2011, NASA is preparing its newest manned spaceship – Orion to take astronauts to Mars.
Orion to have unprecedented space travel technology:
Orion spacecraft will carry up to four astronauts into the deep space – Mars and beyond where humans have never gone before. Orion will work as an exploration vehicle and will also provide the crew safe re-entry from deep space.
Orion will have the largest heat shield ever built, designed to withstand temperatures that could cause a nuclear reactor to melt down.
The Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket to carry Orion:
To carry the Orion spacecraft to the deep space destinations, NASA is developing a new heavy-lift rocket – The Space Launch System (SLS), which is set to be the most powerful rocket ever.
Orion’s first flight test, called Exploration Flight Test-1, just recently successfully launched atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket. The goal of the test was to evaluate the spacecraft’s systems for future manned missions. Orion traveled 3,600 miles (5,790 kilometers) from Earth and then came back at a rocketing speed of 20,000 mph (32,187 km/h).
NASA has plans for one more flight test – Exploration Mission-1 in 2017, when Orion will launch on NASA’s powerful rocket – Space Launch System. This will be the first mission to integrate Orion and the Space Launch System.
After 2017, the next Orion mission is scheduled for 2021, where it will launch with a crew of up to four NASA astronauts.