Splashdown! Orion Spaceship Aces First Flight Test
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA's Orion deep-space capsule hit a historic peak during its first robotic test flight on Friday, and then splashed down into the Pacific Ocean for a picture-perfect ending.
On the way down, the cone-shaped spacecraft went through a "trial by fire" during which the heat of atmospheric re-entry rose as high as 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or twice the heat of molten lava.
"There is your new spacecraft, America. ... Orion is back on Earth. America has driven a golden spike as it crosses a bridge into the future," NASA spokesman Rob Navias declared as the capsule hit the water, 275 miles west of Baja California. Recovery ships converged to bring Orion back to shore…
NASA and its commercial partners are designing Orion to take astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid in the 2020s, and to Mars and its moons in the 2030s. For that reason, NASA portrayed Friday's test flight as a first step toward deep-space exploration. The mission was known as Exploration Flight Test 1, or EFT-1.
"I would describe it as the beginning of the Mars era," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said on NASA TV.
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James Rowen, a writer and consultant, has worked for newspapers, and as the senior Mayoral staffer, in Madison and Milwaukee, WI. This blog began on 2/2/ 2007. Posts run also at various news sites, including The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's "Purple Wisconsin."