We have lift-off!
After three separate launch attempts on Thursday ended with three separate failures, NASA’s Orion spacecraft finally left its launchpad at Kennedy Space Center on Friday morning. This particular test flight will be short: The long-distance spacecraft, which is designed to one day carry human passengers to and from Mars, spent 4.5 hours circling Earth’s orbit before it splashed down off the coast of Mexico.
In this case, the goal with the unmanned test flight is to assess the riskiest parts of the vessel, including the heat shield and parachutes. Although the earliest it might potentially ferry passengers into orbit is 2021, the goal in this case is to build a low-risk, reusable spaceship that can be depended on for the long term. “This is not a Ferrari, like the space shuttle,” Skip Hatfield, NASA’s project manager for the capsule, told Fast Company in 2007. “It’s more like a minivan. It’s more of a vehicle to go to the grocery store in.”
Pretty cool minivan.