While the next-generation Orion crew capsule looks like a throwback to the Apollo program, NASA insists it is light years ahead of its predecessor in both safety and mission capabilities. Abort engines can lift astronauts clear of any emergency on the launch pad, and the cabin is engineered to temporarily withstand a puncture while in space. Orion can remain aloft for 210 days, and many of its components are interchangeable and upgradeable, meaning it could eventually serve as a platform for exploring Mars. Still, with a $44 billion price tag, critics say the entire Constellation program is a waste of taxpayers' money, and NASA should focus on cheaper, unmanned missions.
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