NASA Sees Minivan for Moon

The shuttle's replacement, due in 2015, will be a utilitarian craft
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2007 11:30 AM CST
Space shuttle Atlantis is seen on pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Thursday Dec. 6, 2007. The Apollo shuttle design is more than 30 years old. (AP Photo/John Raoux)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – 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.