NASA makes progress on Space Shuttle successor

Orion will return Americans to space

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Small steps being taken at the Kennedy Space Center have positioned NASA for another major milestone with measurable progress being made to return Americans to space.

"We are moving forward. We have direction from the President. We have direction from Congress. And, we are executing the plan," Bob Cabana, Kennedy Space Center director, told reporters on Wednesday.
 
During a tour of the Operations and Checkout building, Cabana showed reporters the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle -- the successor to the space shuttle -- and the work that had been done in advance of its first test flight next year.
 
Engineers also showcased the work being done at the Swamp Works research laboratories.
 
It will take Orion, which will carry a crew of astronauts into deep space, six months to reach Mars.
 
At Swamp Works, engineers have started to test new concepts -- next-generation landers and rovers -- to make space travel self-sustaining.
 
"It's all about, how do we explore space without having to take everything into space with us?," said Mason Peck, NASA Chief Technologist. "It saves money. It saves time. It also can change how we approach exploration."
 
Since the retirement of the space shuttle, NASA has had to depend on Russia to ferry Americans to the International Space Station.
 
It is an expensive proposition tempered by uncertainty in Congress and the threat of spending cuts.
 
"We know this is a very tough fiscal time for our country. And, we don't have all the resources that we may or may not like to have to do what needs to get done," Cabana said. "We're going to take what we are given and we are going figure out how to do it in the best possible way."
 
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