This is a pretty historic day. Orion is the future NASA and manned exploration of space for the US. It’s first flight was a success. It’s just like Mercury, Gemini or Apollo but modern. Who knows. We may see this thing being used to push humans into space to explore new worlds. It’s a glimmer of hope that NASA will still be able to move science forward.
NASA has posted a very cool video showing the status, and some renderings of the Constellation program. The parallels to the Apollo program are obvious and intentional as they are trying to minimize cost and risk by utilizing what was learned a generation ago. In just 3 years they seem to have done a lot of work, though there’s still years to go until the first flight, and a while longer until we’re looking at a return to the moon. That’s of course assuming that the program isn’t canceled or modified by then.
Altair in a sense is a modernized enlarged version of the lunar lander and Orion is in many ways a larger Apollo Command Module.
The Ares V rocket is a real monster of a rocket. It will be able to lift more than even the Saturn V (famous for being the rocket that shot the Apollo missions into space). Interestingly the Saturn V used the J-2 rocket for the second and third stage (the first used the F-1). The Ares V will use the J-2X rocket which is a modernized version for it’s second stage.