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Questions Wanted: NASA Astronaut to Discuss New Orion Spaceship

Shuttle Atlantis' final crew
Shuttle Atlantis' final crew, commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim, stand in front of the orbiter as it rolls out to the launch pad one last time. (Image credit: Z. Pearlman)

If you're curious about what it takes to develop a new spaceship to take astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit — to destinations such as an asteroid or Mars — you'll have a chance to find out this week.  

NASA astronaut Rex Walheim will be conducting satellite interviews from the Johnson Space Center in Houston on Thursday (June 28) from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. EDT (1100 to 1230 GMT) live on NASA Television. The veteran astronaut will be standing in front of a full-scale model of the Orion spacecraft, and will discuss the new spaceship's design and testing process. staff writer Denise Chow will be speaking to Walheim Thursday morning, and will try to ask as many reader questions as time allows. If you have a question about the Orion spacecraft or NASA's exploration goals, please submit them in the comment section of this article.

NASA's webcast of Walheim's interviews will be available here Thursday morning:

The Orion spacecraft will undergo an unmanned test flight in 2014, launching from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The capsule for that first space-bound journey is scheduled to arrive at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida next week, agency officials said in a statement.

Once it arrives in Florida, the spacecraft's heat shield will be installed and the capsule will go through a series of checks.

Ground test version of the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle (MPCV) inside the Operations and Checkout (O&C) building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The capsule is being used to ready the facility for the arrival of the first MPCV that will fly into space. (Image credit: Z. Pearlman)

The 2014 test flight, called Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) will be the first for the Orion program, and will send NASA's next-generation crew vehicle farther into space than any human spacecraft since the Apollo 17 mission to the moon.

Walheim, 49, flew three space shuttle missions, including the program's final flight, STS-135, in July 2011. He will provide input from an astronaut's perspective about the development and testing of the Orion spacecraft.

Walheim, who was selected to become an astronaut in 1996, is the Astronaut Office's main liaison with the Orion Program.

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