The Orion, which took its first unmanned test flight Dec. 5, launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida and orbiting for four and a half hours before splashing into the Pacific Ocean, is NASA’s latest human-rated spacecraft project, and probably the most ambitious ever. Its ultimate goal, like the Apollo program 45 years ago, is to take humans to places they’ve never gone before. In 1969, that meant the Moon. This time, the destination is Mars, and the Orion might take a crew there by 2021.
Given the grand scope of this project, one might think that the NASA engineers building the shuttle would pull out every technological stop, drawing in the newest super-fast computing power. Right?