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NASA Chooses "Altair" as Name for Astronauts' Lunar Lander
12.18.07
 
NASA has selected Altair as the name of the lunar lander the Constellation Program will use to put humans on the moon.

Altair Lander Image to right: Three crew members work in the area of their lunar lander on the lunar surface in this NASA artist's rendering. Please note that this artwork is not precise. NASA currently is seeking input from industry experts and is developing conceptual designs for Altair. Image credit: NASA
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Altair will be capable of landing four astronauts on the moon, providing life support and a base for weeklong initial surface exploration missions, and returning the crew to the Orion spacecraft that will bring them home to Earth. Altair will launch aboard an Ares V rocket into low Earth orbit, where it will rendezvous with the Orion crew vehicle.

Lunar lander with Orion Image to left: Orion (right) flies in space while docked with a lunar lander in this NASA artist's rendering. Please note that this artwork is not precise. Image credit: NASA
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Altair finds its origins in Arabic and is derived from a phrase that means "the flying one." Altair is the brightest star in the constellation Aquila and is the 12th brightest star in the night sky. In Latin, Aquila means "eagle," reminiscent of the historic lunar exploration module Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon in 1969.

Altair is a key component in the Constellation Program, which is building the spacecraft, launch vehicles and surface support systems to establish a lunar outpost. This work will provide experience needed to expand human exploration farther into the solar system.

Lunar lander concept art Image to right: Orion (right) flies in space while docked with a lunar lander in this NASA artist's rendering. Please note that this artwork is not precise. Image credit: NASA
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NASA currently is seeking input from industry experts and is developing conceptual designs for Altair. Between 2009 and 2011, the project plans to build hardware and test concepts.

The first crewed flight of the Orion spacecraft aboard an Ares I rocket is scheduled for no later than 2015, when it will fly to the International Space Station. Altair's first landing on the moon with an astronaut crew is planned for no later than 2020.