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Orion launch ushers in next generation of space travel

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Mars coming soon?

When it comes to landings on other planets or natural satellites, man has thus far stopped at the Moon. The last manned mission there occurred 42 years ago this month. Before and since 1972, various proposals to send a human mission to Mars — the most inhabitable planet next to Earth — have come and gone without much forward momentum.

However, NASA's new Orion spacecraft, which launched this morning for its first test flight, may be the vehicle that finally takes humanity to its next, reddish frontier.

"There's always a danger of over hype, but we have now built a spacecraft that is human rated for the first time in 42 years," Lockheed Martin Orion program manager Mike Hawes said in an interview with CBS News.

A possible manned mission of any sort in Orion is many years away, though. NASA's current plans are not to man the spacecraft until 2021. And any manned mission to Mars won't happen until at least the 2030s.

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