(Photo Credit: NASA)
The Orion spacecraft, NASA's long-awaited ship intended to take humans beyond Earth orbit, is nearing completion. Construction will be done within days, and the first test launch is scheduled for Dec 4, now less than a month away.
While you're waiting for the next-gen spacecraft to make its debut, why not build your own? The , courtesy of NASA, is meant to provide a realistic, scaled view of the command module to show people how it fits together. While the paper version won't seat six astronauts, it will look great on your desk. NASA even included a foldable stand. No 3D printing is required—just good-old-fashioned paper.
Orion, which resembles Apollo-era NASA vehicles, is intended for missions to the Moon, near-earth asteroids, and Mars. The vehicle was developed as part of the Bush Administration's Constellation program. After Constellation was cancelled, Orion was revived in 2009 by the Human Space Flight Plans Committee. It would be blasted into space by the Space Launch System rocket program, a heavy lift vehicle intended for more robust missions (though the SLS is currently waylaid by budget concerns).
On that Dec. 4 flight, a Delta IV rocket will lift Orion into low-earth orbit, at which point the craft will separate and sail on to 3,600 miles above Earth—well beyond the the ISS, which orbits at an altitude of about 205 miles. It will test the effects of the Van Allen Belt in its flight. As it prepares for re-entry, it will jettison its upper stage rockets before entering the atmosphere with enough speed to create a plasma bubble around the craft.
Orion's success would mark the first time in decades that NASA will have a craft capable of planetary-level exploration, ever since the last of the Apollo modules were used for Skylab missions in the lead up to the Space Shuttle.