No, that's not the Apollo command module you're looking at up there. What's old is new again in space design, and what's floating weightless above this text is a photo of humanity's next great chariot into space. It's the Orion spacecraft from Lockheed Martin, commissioned for NASA
and designed to carry a crew of four not just for trips into orbit but well out into the solar system. Lockheed Martin
has just taken the wraps off the thing for the first time, also showing off its new Space Operations Simulation Center (SOSC), located neither in Houston nor Cape Canaveral. It is instead
built atop the bedrock in Colorado, theoretically isolating it from seismic and other disturbances so that the testing crew can do their thing without any outside interference. In that bunker the ship is currently testing ahead of a planned first launch in 2013, taking a crew into orbit as soon as 2016. Mars? That might be another few years.
: John wrote in to point out that the facility is actually built on
some bedrock, not within the bedrock. So, it's not an underground lair after all -- but it's still a lair by golly.
: There's a vid charting the Orion's development included after the break.