WATCH: Three Weeks In A Room The Size Of A Minivan: NASA Continues Testing Orion Spacecraft

The craft comes out of NASA’s latest efforts to explore deep space

During the shuttle program, astronaut Lee Morin logged more than 259 hours in space, including over 14 spacewalk hours, according to NASA. Now, he helps test and trains astronauts to use NASA’s new spacecraft: the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.


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But Orion is not at all similar to the shuttle Morin rode into space. Instead, the spacecraft looks more like the Apollo vehicles that took crews to the moon years ago, and the spacesuits that go along with it even use the same oxygen connections as the old Apollo suits. And where NASA’s shuttles had 2000 manual switches to control the craft, Orion has about 60 (though many controls on Orion are handled through large electronic displays).

Representatives from NASA answer questions about the Orion program and other deep space exploration initiatives on Thursday April 27, 2018.

The craft comes out of NASA’s latest efforts to explore deep space, starting with orbits around the moon, and it is nearing completion. In early 2019, NASA will test the craft’s capabilities in an abort situation. By the end of 2019, they hope to have a crew on their way to a lunar orbit, a mission titled Exploration Mission 1, or EM-1 for short.

A ‘boilerplate’ version of the Orion spacecraft, which NASA will use to test the craft’s mission abort capabilities.

"We have a lot on our plate, we have EM-1 and EM-2, EM-2 will be taking our crew members past the moon, 40,000 miles past the moon which is further than we've gone in human space flight to date," said Annette Hasbrook, Assistant Manager of the Orion Program.

Hasbrook pointed the the 2019 abort test as an important step in getting to those manned missions. Representatives from NASA said at a Thursday event that Orion’s safety features are key to its design. Once those features are proven, NASA can move on to astronauts up in Orion, and eventually on to their next project: the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, a space station orbiting the moon.

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