Orion spacecraft, Constellation Program

Orion spacecraft, Constellation Program

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Credit: LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION/NASA/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Orion spacecraft. Artwork of the Orion spacecraft orbiting the Moon, with the Earth at upper left. Orion is the crew exploration vehicle for NASA's Constellation Program, a US space program that was announced in 2004. Orion will launch by around 2014, and the plan is to put astronauts back on the Moon by 2020. Here, Orion's 2 disc-shaped solar arrays are tracking the Sun to generate electricity. Orion will be 5 metres in diameter and have a mass of about 22.7 metric tons. On missions to the Moon it will carry a crew of 4, which will descend to the Moon's surface in a separate craft while Orion remains in lunar orbit. The return journey, after the crew ascend from the Moon, will be made in the Orion spaceship.

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