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Constellation Program

Orion capsule, Constellation Program, rocket booster, rocket engines, CEV

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Constellation Program, American human-piloted space program designed to take astronauts to the Moon and to Mars, and potentially to nearby asteroids and other parts of the solar system. The program is the successor to the piloted space shuttle program conducted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) beginning in the 1980s. Instead of a winged space vehicle with rocket engines, Constellation uses a capsule called Orion as the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), launched on a rocket booster called Ares. The Orion capsule can dock with the International Space Station (ISS) and can attach to modules capable of carrying the craft to the Moon and beyond. NASA’s Constellation program was initiated in 2004 after President George Bush called for a new human space program to target the Moon and Mars. Human-piloted flights may begin by 2015.

The basic designs and technology for the Constellation program are derived from NASA’s highly successful Apollo program, which took humans to the Moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Constellation program also incorporates technology developed for the space shuttle, including design elements of the heat shield and the rocket engines. Building on technology developed for the Apollo and space shuttle programs should mean less extensive testing and servicing of the new spacecraft. The choice of the time-tested capsule and booster approach to spaceflight for Constellation also reflects concerns for reducing the cost of the program and for improving the safety of the astronauts.

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