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Shot at the Lockheed Martin Vertical Test Facility in Colorado, this photograph shows the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) after work on the thermal protection backshell and heat shield were completed. "The crew vehicle will undergo rigorous testing to confirm its ability to safely fly astronauts through all the harsh environments of deep space exploration missions," according to NASA.

The MPCV, announced in late May, will eventually be used to send astronauts to an asteroid and then to Mars. It may resemble its Apollo-era predecessors but the MPCV uses state-of-the-art technology. Because it could be used for missions that keep astronauts in space for up to six months at a time, it offers unique propulsion, life support and avionics systems.

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Image: NASA.

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