The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is a USA government research and development agency. NASA was in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (and not military) orientation aiming peaceful applications in space science. Its future vision is working for space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research. NASA led most of the U.S. space discovery tasks as soon as it was founded. The most popular NASA missions are the Apollo moon missions, Skylab space station, and afterwards the Space. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station. NASA’s ongoing investigations are in-depth surveys of Mars and Saturn. NASA is continuously supporting exploration ahead of the asteroid belt and undiscovered trans-Pluto region.
The most recent mission project of NASA named Orion is joint team program with ESA aiming to send astronauts beyond the orbit of the earth and farther. Orion originally was part of NASA’s Constellation program that envisioned moon bases in the post-shuttle era. Although Constellation program was cancelled, Orion survived and then finalised.As space has always been the best frontier for international cooperation for space explorations, the Orion program will build an excellent relation of NASA with ESA. ESA will be a joint partner in the International Space Station program. The total European monetary contribution is estimated to be nearly $600 million.
Orion’s first trip will be an unmanned mission in 2017. Subsequently European parts will be incorporated in the first manned mission of Orion in 2021.The missions of both the programs (manned and unmanned) are aimed at locations which have vicinity of the moon. The project details are being researched, keeping lunar flybys, rather than landings as concluding target. The eventual usage aim of the program is to use the Orion spacecraft to take the astronauts to Mars and asteroids.
To begin with, the basic requirements for Orion spacecraft are being brainstormed, regardless of its destination. At present the technical aspects of the program are focus studied. European Space Agency (ESA) will give propulsion plus power compartment for Orion crew capsule. The service module will be based on Europe’s supply ship used for the International Space Station. NASA will offer no-longer-used space shuttle engines for use on the service modules.
The first Orion crew members will include NASA and ESA astronauts. The test flight of the capsule is planned for the next year. It will fly about 3,600 miles away in the space and then return. The NASA’s decision of joint partnership with ESA in Orion program is a visionary approach towards an important contribution to human exploration of outer space and beyond.