NASA provides update on Orion spacecraft

Orion will bring astronauts to asteroid by 2021

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Three years after President Barack Obama directed NASA to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, NASA is making phenomenal progress toward that goal, agency officials said on Monday. What's more, NASA is thrilled with the prospect of moving up that goal by four years as proposed in the 2014 budget delivered to Congress by the White House last week, officials said.

"We have lots of work ahead of us on that challenging and complex mission," said Dan Dumbacher, NASA's deputy associate administrator for exploration system development. "But NASA is up to the challenge and the team you see here is ready to take it on."

Local 6 News partner Florida Today reports that Dumbacher and other NASA officials gathered at Kennedy Space Center in the same building where Obama issued the 2025 asteroid challenge three years ago Monday.

KSC Director Robert Cabana, a former astronaut, noted that the building, an empty high bay in April 2010, is now a fully operations production facility for NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle. Built by Lockheed Martin, the Orion spacecraft will ferry astronauts on missions to asteroids and other destinations beyond Earth orbit.

Obama's 2014 budget includes a proposal to lasso an asteroid with a robotic spacecraft and tow it back to an orbit on the far side of the moon. Astronauts on the first piloted Orion spaceflight in 2021 then would rendezvous with the ancient space rock and return samples to Earth.

The first test flight of an Orion spacecraft is scheduled to launch in September 2014 on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket at Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The spacecraft, which is being assembled in the production facility, will fly loops around Earth at an altitude of 3,600 miles and then reenter the atmosphere at a velocity that will simulate a return from an asteroid, the moon or Mars.

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