An Orion Teaser

As we know, NASA has been building a next generation space vehicle to return humans to the moon, and ultimately bring them to some of the asteroids and even Mars. This vehicle is called Orion, and is getting to the stage where the prototype can be tested.

In a back-to-basics approach, NASA is abandoning complex, costly vehicles like the space shuttle, in favor of what it knows best: capsules on top of rockets. Orion refers to the capsule itself, while the whole system is called Constellation. The Orion capsule is nearing the testing phase, with trials to start in 2014.

NASA will send an unmanned capsule into high orbit, and have it perform a few maneuvers and other tests. It will then reenter the atmosphere, in order to test the heat shield and structural integrity.

the rocket that will actually take the Orion capsule around is not scheduled for testing until 2017. Little is yet known about it, except that it is something on the scale of Apollo.

In order to reach Mars, it would have to be big.

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