NASA's Orion capsule being built at KSC



CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA's Orion capsule is expected to carry astronauts farther than ever before, officials said.

About 350 jobs have been created at the Kennedy Space Center.

The capsule is not built out yet. In fact, NASA was celebrating the arrival of the core of the capsule.

The Orion capsule is the first spacecraft ever to be assembled at the space center.

The wiring, computers and the heat shield will all be added onto the capsule's skeleton over the next 16 months, officials said. Then it will be put on top of a Delta IV rocket for the first Orion test flight in 2014.

"Isn't this beautiful? There's a lot of people who can't wait to get their hands and fingers in there on the hardware," said Senator Bill Nelson.

Once the capsule is built out, it will fly an unmanned mission on a trajectory in the direction of the moon.

It will travel well beyond the orbit that the International Space Station is on, meaning the capsule will travel farther than any other manned spacecraft since the days of the Apollo program.

The mission will take it 3,600 miles from earth, so NASA can test whether the capsule will be able to withstand the pressures and temperatures of coming back in through the earth's atmosphere from a lunar type mission.

"It is a lot different than the shuttle.  The shuttle was a little bit bigger on the inside. It's different technology too," said astronaut Rex Walheim.

Walheim has been helping test the capsule from a passenger's perspective and hopes the U.S. stays committed to seeing the project through completion.

The first unmanned Orion mission is set for 2014, and NASA said it is hoping the first manned mission will be in 2017.