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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 9:20 EDT

Project Constellation

Project Constellation is a spaceflight program run by NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration). The program goals are to continue significant operations away from Earth’s environment, to develop technologies needed for expanding exploration of space, and to continue conducting fundamental science. Project Constellation was developed by the Exploration Systems Architecture Study, which established how NASA would pursue the goals from the Vision for Space Exploration and the NASA Authorization Act of 2005.

As part of Project Constellation, NASA is developing spacecraft and booster vehicles to replace the outdated Space Shuttle. NASA plans to send astronauts to the Moon and hopefully Mars in the near future. NASA is currently building two booster vehicles (Ares I and Ares V). Ares I will be used to launch manned spacecraft into orbit. Ares V will be designed to launch other hardware into orbit. The Ares V booster will have a heavier lift capacity than the Ares I booster. Besides the boosters, NASA is also developing other spacecraft for use under the Constellation program. These spacecraft include the Orion crew capsule or module, the Earth Departure Stage and the Altair lunar lander.

Like the earlier Apollo program, Project Constellation will have its main vehicle, Orion, fly on missions in Low-Earth orbit with an emphasis on servicing and maintaining the International Space Station. It will also aid the Altair lunar lander and Earth Departure Stage on missions to the Moon. Although flights to Mars are speculated, it is not likely that any space travel will reach Mars until at least 2020. A mission to a Near-Earth asteroid is in the early planning stages.

Project Constellation