Engineers are busy at work building America's next spacecraft, the long overdue replacement of the 33-year-old shuttle, and NASA has this advice for those who can't wait to see the finished product: Think minivan, not Ferrari. Fast Company explores the work at Lockheed and finds the Orion to be utilitarian and reliable, with engineers embracing solutions of the past over razzle-dazzle sci-fi innovation.
Unlike the shuttle, the Orion is "more of a vehicle to go to the grocery store in,” says NASA’s project manager. With limited funds and time—the $8 billion project is due in 2015—the guiding principle has been to use existing technology rather than expend research and development time and money on new solutions. One easy upgrade: Astronauts will no longer have to take reams of paper into space. Flight plans will be built into Orion computers.