Room for Four

Apr 30, 2009 6:01pm

After five years of planning, testing, designing and re-designing, NASA has decided its new Orion spacecraft — the conical capsule reminiscent of Apollo — will probably not be quite what they’d hoped. Gina Sunseri, reporting for us from Houston, sends the following note: "Weight limitations have forced NASA to limit seating on the Orion Capsule from six astronauts to four.  Orion will eventually replace the space shuttle — the shuttle quits flying next year and there will probably be a five year gap before Orion, its replacement, is ready. "Engineers suggested to the managers of the Constellation program that they ditch the microwave oven on board the Orion capsule to save weight (wish I were kidding but this is true) but the microwave is staying and seats for two astronauts are going away.  "This saves a couple of thousand pounds — astronauts, seats, and gear."  NASA says it may yet manage to squeeze six astronauts on board — just not in the early going, if they want to start flying it in 2015. (Above: an Orion mockup, used for tests of ocean splashdowns.  Orion was originally expected to be capable of coming down on dry land.  Photo credit: Ryan Hanyok and the NSWC photographic team led by Peter Congedo.)

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