NASA is teaming up with the European Space Agency to get astronauts beyond Earth's orbit.
Officials said Wednesday that Europe will provide the propulsion and power compartment for NASA's new Orion crew capsule. This so-called service module will be first used on an unmanned mission in 2017. Any extra European parts will be incorporated in the first manned mission of Orion in 2021.
NASA's human exploration chief, Bill Gerstenmaier, said both missions will be aimed at the vicinity of the moon. The exact details are being worked out.
NASA wants to ultimately use Orion spacecraft to carry astronauts to asteroids and Mars. Gerstenmaier says international cooperation will be crucial for such endeavors. He says the International Space Station helped build the foundation.