NASA has found the ideal spaceship to take astronauts far from Earth ... the same one they've been working on for several years and have spent $5 billion on. All the Orion capsule needed was a new name—the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. NASA decided the disposable $7.5 billion capsule would take four astronauts on 21-day trips to potential destinations like nearby asteroids and, eventually, Mars. The Orion capsule was a cornerstone of former President George W. Bush's plan to return astronauts to the moon and the only part of the Bush space plan that President Obama did not cancel last year. Lockheed Martin was contracted to build it in 2006.
The Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle is the same ship with almost no changes—except now the ship will be attached to a still-to-be-designed big rocket and go out of Earth's orbit, a NASA administrator said yesterday. The ship would not be reusable because it will land in the Pacific Ocean and salt water corrodes metal, which critics say is wasteful. But Sen. Bill Nelson pointed out that taxpayers have already spent billions on Orion. "It shows real progress towards the goal of exploring deep space and eventually getting to Mars," he said. (Read more NASA stories.)