WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is reviving the NASA crew capsule concept that he had canceled with the rest of the moon program earlier this year, in a move that will mean more jobs and less reliance on the Russians.
The space capsule, called Orion, still won't go to the moon. It will go unmanned to the International Space Station to stand by as an emergency vehicle to return astronauts home.
NASA will speed up development of a massive rocket. It would have the power to blast crew and cargo far from Earth, although no destination has been chosen. The rocket would be ready to launch several years earlier than under the old moon plan.
The two moves were announced Tuesday, ahead of Obama's visit Thursday to Cape Canaveral. They are designed to counter criticism of the Obama administration's space plans as being low on detail, physical hardware and local jobs.
Meanwhile, a pair of spacewalking astronauts finished installing a fresh storage tank outside the International Space Station, but a stuck valve was threatening to jeopardize half of the cooling system.
Right after Rick Mastracchio hooked up the fluid valves for the new ammonia tank on the third and final spacewalk of shuttle Discovery's flight, flight controllers encountered the valve trouble in a separate pressurizing unit.
Flight director Ron Spencer said the problem needs to be resolved as soon as possible and that spacewalking repairs may be needed sometime after Discovery leaves this weekend.