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New spaceship to take astronauts to asteroids, Mars moons

New spaceship from NASA: a new spaceship based on an Orion space capsule is being re-purposed for missions to asteroids and moons around Mars.

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New spaceship coming from NASA: an artist's rendering of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle on a deep space mission.

Photo illustration/NASA

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NASA's announcement of a new role and name for the Orion space capsule was welcome news in Colorado on Tuesday, where about 750 Lockheed Martin employees, subcontractors and suppliers are working on the project.

Orion was originally part of the Constellation program, former President George W. Bush's plan to return humans to the moon. President Barack Obama scrapped that project but spared Orion for possible use as an escape pod for the space station.

NASA said Orion would be used to carry four astronauts on 21-day missions outside Earth's orbit, possibly to an asteroid. On return, it would land in the Pacific Ocean.

NASA is renaming it the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

Design and engineering work on the capsule is being done by Lockheed Martin at two locations in the Denver area, in suburban Lakewood and in Waterton Canyon south of Denver.

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