SCIENCE -- March 25, 2011 at 10:22 AM ET
Future Remains Murky for Newly Unveiled Orion Spacecraft
As far back as 1962, some Americans said that the money the government spent sending John Glenn into orbit in a tiny Mercury capsule would have been better spent taking care of people on the ground. That argument really never ended.
In 2004, President George W. Bush announced the "Vision for Space Exploration." It was designed to give NASA and the country a new long-term goal for manned space exploration: a mission to Mars. President Barack Obama officially canceled VSE on Feb. 1, 2010, saying the government simply couldn't afford it. In the future, private companies would compete to provide services like resupplying the International Space Station, while NASA would concentrate on developing new technologies.
But last October, Congress told NASA it should continue developing one part of the VSE--a deep-space crew vehicle called Orion. Lockheed Martin, the nation's largest defense contractor, got the assignment, and has made a major financial commitment in Denver toward completing that mission.