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Full Version: Orion Spacecraft Launch on Thursday a Big Leap Toward Mars, NASA Says
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The first test flight of NASA's Orion spacecraft this week marks a critical step on humanity's journey to Mars, agency officials say.

Orion is scheduled to blast off Thursday (Dec. 4) at 7:05 a.m. EST (1205 GMT) from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on an unmanned mission called Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1). If all goes according to plan, the capsule will zoom 3,600 miles (5,800 kilometers) from Earth, then come barreling back home to test out Orion's heat shield, avionics and other systems.

EFT-1 will mark the farthest journey of a human-spaceflight vehicle since 1972, when the last of NASA's Apollo missions flew to the moon and returned to Earth. But the agency envisions Orion traveling even farther afield — to near-Earth asteroids and, eventually, to Mars. [Orion's First Test Flight: Full Coverage]


It was delayed...and will launch friday at 7:05am EST....
weather is the problem today

got my fingers crossed
The launch went off at 7:05

so far so good
Orion spacecraft passed its first flight test on Friday, marking the start of what the space agency hopes will be a new era of human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit.
Carrying only test equipment and some souvenirs, the 19,000-pound capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean 600 miles southwest of San Diego about four and a half hours after it was launched into orbit from Florida. NASA said that the spacecraft had functioned nearly flawlessly throughout the brief flight and that the capsule landed just a mile off target.

“There is your new spacecraft, America,” a NASA spokesman, Mike Navias, said as Orion gently descended, its three main orange-and-white parachutes framed against wispy clouds in an otherwise blue sky.

“It’s a good day,” W. Michael Hawes, Orion program manager for Lockheed Martin, which built Orion, said at a news conference in Florida two hours after splashdown.
For the space industry, public and private, the test was a welcome success after two recent disasters. In late October, a commercial cargo rocket bound for the International Space Station exploded after liftoff in Virginia. Two days later, a rocket being developed by Virgin Galactic to take private citizens on short space jaunts disintegrated during a test flight in California, killing a pilot.

NASA’s test, though, appeared to go off with just a few minor hitches. One of the few reported problems occurred after the splashdown, when two of five airbags designed to keep the capsule upright in the water did not fully deploy. But the failure had no effect on the recovery.

The 11-foot-long capsule, which had slowed from a maximum speed of about 20,000 miles an hour to 20 just before it splashed into the water, will be towed to San Diego and eventually trucked back to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Engineers and technicians will pore over it and analyze reams of data collected by sensors during the flight to determine how well the spacecraft’s systems and parts, including the capsule’s heat shield, performed.

William H. Gerstenmaier, a NASA associate administrator, said that a quick review after the splashdown suggested that the data “looks really good.”
“We will really learn things from this flight,” he said.

Sitting atop a Delta IV rocket, the Orion capsule lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida’s Atlantic coast at 7:05 a.m. The launch had been delayed for a day after winds and a problem with the rocket’s fuel system forced a cancellation on Thursday

[Image: nasa-orion-space-launch-videoSixteenByNine540.jpg]
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