August 23, 2006

NASA names new moon spaceships Orion

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - The U.S. spaceships
that NASA wants to build to carry astronauts back to the moon
will be called Orion, an agency official said on Wednesday.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced
the name about a week early after inadvertently airing on its
public satellite television station a message recorded by a
space station crew member for future use.

"We've been calling it the Crew Exploration Vehicle for
several years, but today it has a name - Orion," station flight
engineer Jeffrey Williams said in the message aired on Tuesday.

Orion was the hunter of Greek myth, whose constellation is
one of the most easily recognized because of its bright belt of
three stars. NASA also borrowed from Greek mythology to name
its first fleet of lunar spacecraft, the Apollo series that
carried the first humans to the moon in 1969.

The Orion name had previously surfaced on a Web site, along
with a picture of the project's new logo. NASA had hoped to
keep the name under wraps until it chose a contractor to build
the vehicles. The announcement is expected on August 31.

Lockheed Martin is competing against partnership led by
Northrop Grumman and Boeing to build capsules that can be flown
on top of expendable rockets to the International Space Station
and to the moon. Eventually, NASA hopes to parlay the
technology into a craft capable of carrying people to and from

Test flights of the new capsules are expected to start as
early as 2012, with the first mission to the moon scheduled for
no later than 2020.