HOUSTON -

NASA's next manned space capsule has reached a major milestone.

Orion has been powered on for the first time in the final year of preparations for flight.

Parts of Orion's system were installed and powered up for a series of tests at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week.

The Orion team has an ambitious goal: an unmanned test flight in September 2014; to travel to an asteroid by the 2020s, and a trip to Mars in 2030.

"It's been an exciting ride so far, but we're really getting to the good part now," said Mark Geyer, Orion program manager. "This is where we start to see the finish line. Our team across the country has been working hard to build the hardware that goes into Orion, and now the vehicle and all our plans are coming to life."

Throughout the past year, more than 66,000 custom-designed components have been arriving at Kennedy for installation on the spacecraft.

Scientists said the ship will define the new future of American manned space exploration.