NASA unveils 'powerhouse' module to take astronauts beyond the moon


Europe's Airbus has showed off its propulsion module for NASA's Orion spacecraft, a mission that aims to send astronauts further into space than ever before.

NASA spacecraft "Orion" is set to make its first unmanned test flight in 2020, travelling more than 64,000 kilometres beyond the moon.

Two years later its scheduled to conduct its first manned spaceflight, taking astronauts further into space than ever before.

US space agency NASA is now one step closer to its goal. 

The propulsion module, known as the "powerhouse", built by Europe's Airbus is ready.

"We call it the 'powerhouse'," explains Oliver Juckenh fel, head of on-orbit services and exploration at Airbus Bremen.

"Which means we supply propulsion, rocket propulsion, we supply electricity, we ensure that the waste heat from the capsule can be transported outside into space. 

"And most importantly, if you have astronauts on board, we have breathing gas, oxygen and water to drink, the life support system for the spacecraft."

On Monday, it will embark on its first voyage - an Antonov cargo aircraft will transport the European Service Module (ESM) from Germany to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

There, engineers will integrate it with an astronaut capsule over the coming months.

Space company Airbus Defence and Space in Bremen, northern Germany, developed and built the high-tech propulsion module on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA). 

It took the engineers four years of development and construction.

On Friday (2 November), the ESM was handed over to NASA during an official ceremony at Bremen airport.
Orion is designed to send astronauts further into space than ever before, beyond the moon to asteroids and even Mars.

It will transport astronauts beyond low Earth orbit for the first time since the end of the Apollo programme in the 1970s.

"When we go to the vicinity of the moon, the systems are much more complicated, the hardware is much more difficult, the precision needed in the engineering," says NASA associate administrator, William Gerstenmaier.

NASA will use the mission to develop the capabilities to send humans to Mars.

The European Service Module (ESM) is Europe's contribution to the Orion mission.

The module provides propulsion, power, water, oxygen and nitrogen as well as keeping the spacecraft at the right temperature.

NASA says it's the first time that such an key part of an American spacecraft came from Europe.

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