Reservoir Hill writes: "Work is progressing on the design of the new Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), the next generation of NASA spacecraft that will take humans to the International Space Station, back to the Moon, and hopefully on to Mars but one major question about the spacecraft has yet to be answered. On returning to Earth, should the CEV land in water or terra firma? After initial studies, the first assessment by NASA and the contractor for the CEV, Lockheed Martin, was that landing on land was preferred in terms of total life cycle costs for the vehicles. But getting the CEV light enough for the Ares rockets to be able to launch it, and therefore eliminating the 1500 lb airbags for landing has its appeal so now a splashdown in water seems to be favored. "Looking at the landing itself, the event of actually touching down, water comes out to be preferable as less risk," says Jeff Hanley, Manager for the Constellation Program. The final decision will be made in 2008. "If the Orion team is able to come in at the preliminary design review later this next year with a concept for be able to land on land that is fairly robust but not cost a lot of mass to have to hurl to the moon and back, then it becomes an operational decision," added Hanley."
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