NASA on Thursday gave a multibillion dollar contract to build a manned lunar spaceship to Lockheed Martin Corp., the aerospace leader that usually builds unmanned rockets.
The nation's space agency plans to use the Orion crew exploration vehicle to replace the space shuttle fleet, take astronauts to the moon and perhaps to Mars. Reusable and like Apollo and earlier spacecraft, it is perched atop the rocket. NASA estimated the cost at $7.5 billion through 2019.
The last time NASA awarded a manned spaceship contract to Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., was in 1996 for a spaceplane that was supposed to replace the space shuttle. NASA spent $912 million and the ship, called X-33, never got built because of technical problems.
Woe unto our space exploration, woe, woe woe...
[Emphasis added of course]