Read our feature about today’s Orion Flight Test and what it means for the future of human space exploration. http://go.nasa.gov/1FUMIqL
Fresh from the conclusion of the first-ever flight test of NASA’s Orion spacecraft, some of the managers behind the flawless mission gave an early indication of what it took for Orion to be successful and what the spacecraft’s two-orbit, 4.5-hour means for its goals to explore deep space and make a human journey to Mars.
“We as a species are meant to press humanity further into the solar system and this is a first step,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate. “What a tremendous team effort.”
Orion launched this morning at 7:05 a.m. EST to begin what would prove to be a perfect flight. Riding atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy, the largest rocket in the American inventory, Orion flew to an altitude of 3,604 miles on its second orbit and plunged into Earth’s atmosphere at 20,000 mph before slowing down, releasing its parachutes and landing gently in the Pacific Ocean within sight of NASA and U.S. Navy recovery teams.
“It is hard to have a better day than today,” said Mark Geyer, Orion program manager. “The upper stage put us right where we wanted to be and some of those pictures where you could see the frame of the window, you don’t feel like you’re watching like a satellite, you feel like an astronaut yourself.”
Orion did not carry any people into space during this flight, but is designed to take astronauts on deep space missions in the future. It became the first spacecraft designed for humans to leave low-Earth orbit since the Apollo 17 mission, the last moon landing by NASA.
“We’re already working on the next capsule,” said Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin’s Orion program manager, the company that built Orion and operated the flight for NASA. “We’ll learn a tremendous amount from what we did today.”
Orion did not carry any people into space, but is designed to take humans on deep space missions in the future. It became the first human-rated spacecraft to leave low-Earth orbit since the Apollo 17 mission, the last moon landing by NASA.
“We’re already working on the next capsule,” said Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin’s Orion program manager, the company that built Orion and operated the flight for NASA. “We’ll learn a tremendous amount from what we did today.
“Today was a great day for America,” said Flight Director Mike Sarafin from his console at Mission Control in Houston. “While this mission was unmanned, we were all aboard Orion.”
NASA TV will air a post-mission news conference at 1:30 p.m. EST.
Crews on small boats working from Navy recovery ships are gathering up the main chutes following Orion’s successful splashdown.
The Orion capsule landed upright on its base in a position called Stable 1 and remains in Stable 1 as it floats on the Pacific’s surface. The spacecraft’s systems performed perfectly throughout the mission including two passes through the Van Allen radiation belts and the heat of re-entry.
A U.S. Navy H-60 helicopter is flying out to Orion as the recovery process begins for the first Orion flight test.