So while it appears the U.S. is leaving Low Earth Orbit operations (like the ISS) to the private sector and other countries once the Space Shuttle program is retired later this year, our country is going to “boldly go” into the unknown depths of space.
Finally, some good news from NASA that perhaps can return us to the pinnacle of space exploration!
In a press release dated May 24th, NASA officials announced plans for a new spacecraft designed for deep space exploration. The Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) is based on designs originally intended for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, part of the Constellation Program that was canceled early last year.
“We are committed to human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and look forward to developing the next generation of systems to take us there,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “The NASA Authorization Act lays out a clear path forward for us by handing off transportation to the International Space Station to our private sector partners, so we can focus on deep space exploration. As we aggressively continue our work on a heavy lift launch vehicle, we are moving forward with an existing contract to keep development of our new crew vehicle on track.”
This new spacecraft is being designed by Lockheed Martin Corp., who has been involved with many NASA projects over the years.
With 316 cubic feet of pressurized, habitable space and a rough cone shape, the MPCV resembles a slightly larger Apollo Command/Service Module with a fresh coat of black paint. However, it has been designed for missions up to 21 days, will carry four astronauts, and is supposed to be 10 times safer during launch and re-entry than the Space Shuttle.