Problems are mounting for the Orion spacecraft that is supposed to replace the retiring space shuttle fleet and carry U.S. astronauts to the moon by 2020. Among the most severe, according to a 117-page internal NASA report posted on this week: an $80-million overrun on development of a single motor; a hard-to-open hatch door; and the potential that the stack (craft and Ares 1 rocket) will vibrate itself to pieces during takeoff. Constellation's official launch date for practice flights remains March 2015, but NASA had envisioned a best-case scenario of summer 2013. An agency spokesperson told the Associated Press that in principle a launch could now occur no earlier than August 2014. Some NASA watchers say the setbacks are signs of agency mismanagement, but others say they are par for the course for an attempt to return to the moon in an era of uncertain funding.
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin Corp