Thursday, June 23, 2011

NASA Moves Closer to Manned Missions to Mars

NASA has moved one step closer to sending astronauts into deep space with the announced development of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV).

The MPCV replaces the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, commissioned under President Bush and nixed under President Obama due to budgetary constraints. Funds used in the development of the Orion ship had exceeded five billion dollars at the time of the project’s cancellation.

President Obama has instead set goals of a manned mission to a near-earth asteroid in the next twenty years, and a possible manned mission to Mars in the next thirty. NASA hopes the MPCV will help meet these goals. Unlike the Orion, which had been developed with the moon as its only destination, the MPCV will be used as the primary vehicle in the manned exploration of entirely new frontiers, such as asteroids or the Martian moons.

The development of the MPCV was brought about by the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, which shifted NASA’s focus away from the moon and towards a “permanent human presence beyond low Earth orbit.” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden spoke on the Authorization Act and development of the MPCV in a statement released Tuesday.

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