NASA Photos
NASA and Lockheed Martin representatives spoke at a public event Tuesday night, Feb. 26, at the Museum of Flight's William M. Allen Theater on the Orion spacecraft, NASA's next generation. Pictured above, the capsule will hold four astronauts. Pictured below, the tan portion, and outer rockets are the Delta 4 Heavy Rocket launch vehicle with two strap-on boosters manufactured by Boeing and Lockheed.

NASA Orion Spacecraft to send astronauts to the moon, asteroids & Mars; Museum of Flight talk promised new heights

NASA and Lockheed Martin Space Systems representatives intrigued the audience of over 100 enthusiasts Tuesday night, Feb. 26, at the Museum of Flight's William M. Allen Theater for a public program about humans landing on the moon, asteroids, and Mars with the Orion spacecraft. As the Space Shuttle program has winded down, Orion seems poised to boldly go where no man has gone before, four astronauts at a time.

The trip to Mars would take 510 days each way. Discussed were habitat modules or dock settlements somewhat like the current International Space Station to relieve astronauts of their relatively tiny environment over the year and a half journey to the "Red Planet." A manned moon mission is scheduled for 2020. The capsule will re-enter Earth's atmosphere at over 20,000 mph and slow to a mere 18 mph for a gentile, three-parachute water landing evocative of the Apollo missions.

Speaking were Stuart McClung, Functional Area Manager for Landing/Recovery System hardware for the Orion Crew and Service Module Office at NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, and Larry Price, Orion Deputy Program Manager with Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company.

They showed a brief video of the development of the heat shield, the world's largest, took questions, and spoke of the practicalities of twisting the arms of the generally-supportive Congress which has cut their funding resulting in slowing down testing timetables.

"It's not a blue state, red state thing," said McClung. "it's how much money is out there. They've got some big problems they're trying to solve, or hopefully trying to solve."

Added Price, "It's not bipartisan, it's nonpartisan, and NASA has very strong support in Congress."

They, and other representatives at the talk, pointed out that the Orion program has contracts and venders in 40 states, resulting in "direct job creation." They said that as they solve technical problems to get to outer space they discover new solutions to problems other industries can apply on Earth.

One go NASA's mantras is, "We don't spend money in space. We spend money on Earth."

Their critical, unmanned Sept., 2014 Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT 1) will use the Delta 4 Heavy Rocket launch vehicle with two strap-on boosters manufactured by a consortium at Boeing and Lockheed. This will send up the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, or MPCV, which includes the capsule. More than half the systems that will appear in the ultimate finished Orion will be tested.

The Orion spacecraft crew module structure underwent its enormous final friction "stir weld" in June, 2010, and other developments were subsequently made at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans before it was transported to the NASA Kennedy Space Station last June.

Charlie Lundquist, Crew and Service Module Manager for NASA at Johnson Space Center, Houston, on hand at the event, spoke to the West Seattle Herald.

"We have a number of vendors in the Seattle area, subcontractors supporting this program," he said. He mentioned General Dynamics, Aerojet, Janicke Industries and others.

"We thought that while here (in the Seattle area) let's do outreach events and engage the public," Lundquist said. 'We want to let the American public know that, 'Yes, we're still in the space business. We're building launch vehicles. We're not going to be relying on the Russians anymore for access to space. America is back in the space business.'

"I grew up in Houston and there was always the Johnson Space Center there, and I was 7 years old when I saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon,"he said. "A number of the people I work with also found that very inspirational and it shaped our futures, finding jobs in science and technology. We still think we at NASA serve that role, inspiring the young people and getting them engaged in space exploration."

Also from NASA at the Museum of Flight were two UW aero-engineering alumni, including Howard Hu from Shorline, and Nujoud Merancy from Tumwater.

"I've been in Houston since I graduated UW in 2001," said Merancy. "I pretty much always wanted to be an astronaut since I was a kid and never gave up that dream," she said. "Howard and I work in the same office. I'm a systems engineer in the vehicle integration office. We have all these systems, thermal structures, environmental, and I'm making sure all work together and we build it so that someone doesn't put a pipe where the crew is supposed to sit. We have several other Huskies on the Orion program, some at Johnson others with contractor teams (nationwide.)"

While Seattle-area luminaries like Charles Simonyi, who traveled to the International Space Station on a Russian-built Soyuz, donated generously to the Museum of Flight, and to space exploration in other ways, Merancy pointed out that because NASA is a government agency, it cannot accept private funding.

'You can't hold a bake sale," she said.

Also attending the talk, seated front-row, center, was perennial political candidate and astronomy hobbyist, Goodspaceguy, a Boulevard Park resident. He runs a blog, Colonize Orbital Space.

"I never liked the Space Shuttle because it was based on a faulty concept," he told the West Seattle Herald after the talk. Referring to Orion, he said with optimism "Here we have a capsule we can get into orbit with, like the Saturn V rocket that took us to the moon."

Find out more about the Orion project on their Facebook page, "NASA's Orion Project." Also,, and and type "Orion" in their search window.

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