Outer Space Chase: Lockheed Martin Tests Orion in Denver

March 22 2011, 2:00 PM

A test version of the Orion spacecraft, which was originally built to take men and women to the Moon but may now serve as a lifeboat for the International Space Station, was on display Monday at the Lockheed Martin facility south of Denver, where "the company also unveiled a cavernous test facility" (Associated Press). Orion was scaled back by the Obama administration last year when the president canceled the Constellation program, reviving the Orion portion months later.

Though the craft may also be used for longer-distance missions, it seems it will serve as a replacement for the aging space shuttle program. "Our goal is to be 10 times better than the shuttle on the way up, as far as safety and landing are concerned, and likewise in space," says John Karas, vice president and general manager of human space flight at Lockheed Martin (7News). Mark R. Whittington, who has written extensively on space, criticizes Orion's new role, noting the "Lockheed Martin program does not envision any permanent human occupancy of space beyond...2020" (Yahoo).