The first space-bound Orion spacecraft has been delivered to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA said Monday.
The spacecraft, which will launch in 2014 on an uncrewed test mission, is designed to carry astronauts farther into space than ever before.
"Orion's arrival at Kennedy is an important step in meeting the president's goal to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said in a statement.
"As NASA acquires services for delivery of cargo and crew to the International Space Station and other low-Earth destinations from private companies, NASA can concentrate its efforts on building America's next generation space exploration system to reach destinations for discovery in deep space. Delivery of the first space-bound Orion, coupled with recent successes in commercial spaceflight, is proof this national strategy is working."
NASA said Orion will provide emergency abort capability, sustain astronauts during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space.
The 2014 test flight will travel 3,600 miles above the Earth's surface, 15 times farther than the International Space Station's orbital position and farther than any spacecraft designed to carry humans has gone in more than 40 years.
Along with preparations to the spacecraft, Kennedy's facilities are being refurbished to handle the next generation of rockets and spacecraft.
"Work is under way on America's next great spacecraft that will surpass the boundaries within which humanity has been held," William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Human Exploration Operations Mission Directorate at NASA in Washington, said in a statement.
"In a facility that once processed cargo for space shuttles and various components for the International Space Station, hundreds of people at Kennedy are coupling advanced hardware assembly systems with a new human-rated spacecraft designed for deep space travel."
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