NASA To Go Wingless
Astronauts who make the next foray to the moon will go and return in much the same way as their predecessors did but they might be more comfortable. Last week NASA awarded a $3.9 billion contract to Lockheed Martin to build next-generation spacecraft to replace the space shuttle that look -- and function -- a lot like the Apollo capsules of 30 years ago. Gone are wings and other aerodynamic surfaces in favor of heat shields and parachutes in a reusable craft, called Orion, that will go to the International Space Station and the moon after the space shuttle is retired. The new craft will be about 2.5 times bigger inside than the Apollo capsules, with room for four to six astronauts. There will also be a cargo version for taking supplies to the space station. Lockheed Martin will build a prototype of each and then there's another $3.5 billion set aside for more capsules. In addition to the extra space, the new spacecraft will have much improved solar arrays, computers and other electronic gear.