Altair and Orion spacecraft in Earth orbit, illustration

Altair and Orion spacecraft in Earth orbit, illustration

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Credit: NASA/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Altair and Orion spacecraft in Earth orbit. Illustration of a planned mission to the Moon, with the Altair lunar lander joined to the Orion spacecraft in Earth orbit. The Orion spacecraft is at top right, with the Altair lunar lander to its left. At centre is the upper stage of the Ares V rocket used to launch the Altair lunar lander into orbit. The Orion spacecraft was launched separately. After the two spacecraft have docked, the rocket upper stage is discarded before the spacecraft start their journey to the Moon. The Orion spacecraft can be crewed by four astronauts. Developed by NASA, with a test flight taking place in 2014, the first Orion crewed launches are scheduled for around 2023. The Orion spacecraft are intended for use in Earth orbit, and for human exploration of the Moon, the asteroids and of Mars. The plans for the Altair lunar lander were cancelled in 2010. Artwork published in 2007.

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