Video: See our full interview with Orion Program Manager Mark Kirasich

NASA’s newest deep space capsule shares a lot with the proven designs of Apollo.

There are many reasons for this, but they tend to come down to the fact that at least with the current state of the art in materials science and aeronautics, the design attributes for the “plane” part tend to make it a terrible vehicle for atmospheric re-entry, and the attributes that make it a better re-entry vehicle tend to make it a terrible plane. Capsules, on the other hand, are essentially perfect space vehicles, sacrificing a spaceplane’s “land almost anywhere if the runway is long enough” convenience for massively increased safety and predictability during re-entry (capsules are self-righting in the atmosphere, for example, while the Space Shuttle required constant active control as it returned to Earth).

To add valuable perspective to our series, and to get the scoop on how the work of Apollo is influencing NASA’s spacecraft designs today, we were lucky enough to be able to sit with Orion Program Manager Mark Kirasich and have him explain some space science to us. Orion, of course, is NASA’s deep space-worthy successor to the Space Shuttle—and it is decidedly capsule-shaped, for a huge variety of very practical reasons. Kirasich had a lot to say to us about the current state of the agency and how Apollo both inspired him and shaped NASA’s future direction.

Listing image by NASA

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Apollo Program, Ars Technica brings you an in depth look at the Apollo missions through the eyes of the participants.