Lockheed Martin on Tuesday unveiled the first Orion spacecraft, a part of what NASA had planned as the sprawlingly ambitious Constellation project that would offer a replacement for the space shuttle — and a means to ferry humans into outer space and back to the moon.
Orion and the companion Ares heavy-lift rocket were part of Constellation, a program cancelled under President Barack Obama's 2011 budget proposal. Instead Obama urged NASA to work toward sending humans to an asteroid and then on to Mars. Reports indicated NASA intended Orion to be merely a crew-escape vehicle. NASA and Lockheed Martin had other plans. They pushed ahead on the Orion space capsule despite their ambiguous status. Tuesday Lockheed Martin showed off the fruits of its labor — and it's far more ambitious than a crew-rescue ship.