NASA made officially announced the name of its moon vehicle
yesterday -- a week ahead of schedule. The reason for the early reveal was
because an American astronaut on the international space station let the name slip over an
open radio channel. "We've been calling it the crew exploration
vehicle for several years, but today it has a name... Orion," said
astronaut Jeffrey Williams. NASA officials denied the Orion name shortly after
the leak, but
later confirmed the name.
It should be noted that the name "Orion" will be
the official project name for NASA's missions to the international space
station and to the moon. Orion will also be the name of the four-man crew
exploration vehicle (reminiscent of the old Apollo capsule). The Orion capsule
is 16.5 feet
in diameter and has a mass of 25 tons. It also has 2.5 the internal volume of
the old Apollo capsules.
"Many of its stars have been used for navigation and
guided explorers to new worlds for centuries. Our team, and all of NASA - and,
I believe, our country - grows more excited with every step forward this
program takes. The future for space exploration is coming quickly," said
Orion Project Manager Skip Hatfield.
Orion will succeed the space shuttle as NASA's primary
astronaut ferry and its first flight will take place before 2014. Orion's first
trip to the moon should take place no later than 2020. If Orion does touchdown on
the moon by 2020, it would represent a 50 year spread since the first time an
American stepped foot on our nearest neighbor in space.