Orion: On Our Way to Mars Again?

In the midst of a series of technical glitches that delayed the planned launch of the Orion capsule by a Delta IV rocket on Thursday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is reported to have told NBC News, “We’re now on the way to Mars, and that’s what’s most important.”

Uh, no. First of all, we’re not anywhere close to being on our way to Mars, or even the Moon, for that matter. Orion is a marvelous spacecraft, but it can’t go anywhere on its own; it needs a massive rocket to launch it into space, and that rocket — the proposed Space Launch System (SLS) — isn’t expected to be ready for an initial manned test launch with Orion until at least 2021, and probably a few years after that. The Delta IV is merely a place card until the human-rated SLS is ready.

While it will allow NASA to test the unmanned Orion in space and prepare it to eventually be mated with the SLS, the Delta IV is not the designated Mars rocket; the SLS is… and the SLS remains a big question mark — both in terms of its development and funding and its political support.

Without the SLS, Orion —> Read More Here


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