NASA's Orion Spacecraft Successfully Takes Flight
NASA's groundbreaking Orion spacecraft was launched successfully this morning in its first test flight. It was originally scheduled to launch yesterday morning, but it missed its launch window as a result of hindrances such as a passing boat, inclement weather, and a faulty valve.
This morning, however, the launch went completely according to plan, and Orion took flight at the beginning of its launch window at 7:05 am. NASA insists that this rocket, and therefore this test flight, is a significant step to walking on Mars: "I would describe it as the beginning of the Mars era," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said on NASA TV.
The rocket is unmanned for this flight, which will make sure the basic systems are operational, but Orion will eventually be able to take four astronauts on a 21-day mission, which is expected to occur in 2021. Orion is the most powerful rocket in the world right now, and may be able to take astronauts to exotic deep space locations such as Mars or an asteroid.
During this mission, Orion will reach a peak altitude of 3,600 miles, which is fifteen times higher than the ISS, and will orbit the Earth twice. The flight will test whether all of Orion's systems, including the parachutes and heat shields, are operational, in preparation for its debut launch on the Space Launch System, which is scheduled to occur in November 2018.