Next Chapter to Mars: Orion

Science, Technology, and Exploration all feed NASA's Journey to Mars efforts (Image Credit: NASA)

Science, Technology, and Exploration all feed NASA’s Journey to Mars efforts (Image Credit: NASA)

Probably one of the most exciting events for Mars this week didn’t happen on Mars. The successful launch, orbit, and splashdown landing of NASA’s Orion spacecraft secured the next new step toward sending manned crews on the Journey to Mars. Decades have gone by since the golden age of space exploration when, in its heyday, there were launches nearly every few months in the Apollo era. And when the shuttles were retired, space exploration hit a lull that seemed to worry and disappoint some people. Orion’s Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), conducted on December 5, 2014, re-establishes a space program that can leave Earth’s orbit.

“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.”

Significant features of the Orion project tested very successfully on this first unmanned flight. The crew capsule withstood the pressures of launch, assent, two passes through the Van Allen belts annd their high radiation, plus surviving the enormous heat generated upon return through the atmosphere and the pressures of the splash down.

Engineers now have their hands full with testing data and sensor readings to evaluate the flight. The results will better inform the teams preparing for the next flight, Exploration Mission-1, which is scheduled to go around the moon.

If you missed the launch, here are some of the highlights.


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Cat Ellen
Cat Ellen

Cat Ellen is a technical writer by trade, an occasional copy editor
and beta reader, and has a passion for teaching ATS bellydance and
numerous textile arts, notably drop spindle and card weaving.