NASA, Europeans uniting to send spaceship to moonNASA is teaming up with the European Space Agency to get astronauts beyond Earth's orbit.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA is teaming up with the European Space Agency to get astronauts beyond Earth's orbit.
Europe will provide the propulsion and power compartment for NASA's new Orion crew capsule, officials said Wednesday. This so-called service module will be based on Europe's supply ship used for the International Space Station.
Orion's first trip is an unmanned mission in 2017. Any extra European parts will be incorporated in the first manned mission of Orion in 2021.
NASA's human exploration chief, Bill Gerstenmaier, said both missions will be aimed at the vicinity of the moon. The exact details are being worked out; lunar fly-bys, rather than landings, are planned.
NASA wants to ultimately use the bell-shaped Orion spacecraft to carry astronauts to asteroids and Mars. International cooperation will be crucial for such endeavors, Gerstenmaier told reporters.
The United States has yet to establish a clear path forward for astronauts, 1½ years after NASA's space shuttles stopped flying. The basic requirements for Orion spacecraft are well understood regardless of the destination, allowing work to proceed, Gerstenmaier said.
“You don't design a car to just go to the grocery store,” he told reporters.