NASA’s Orion spacecraft took its first flight on December 5, and recently it safely landed back into the Pacific Ocean. The space research organization released a video of Orion’s re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
The video shows the plasma created by the interaction between Orion’s heat shield and the atmosphere changed from white to yellow, lavender and magenta as the temperature rises. The footage also shows deployment of spacecraft’s parachutes and final splash into the ocean.
The Orion space capsule flew its first unmanned test flight from Kennedy Space Center in Florida and returned back after more than a week in transit. At its highest point in orbit, the capsule was about 3,600 miles above Earth’s surface. It is engineered to take astronauts to Mars. Upon splash into the ocean, the U.S. Navy retrieved it near San Diego and transported it back to Kennedy Space Center.
The test flight was intended to assess the capsule’s system functioning against the extreme space environment, which would be used for crew missions to farther destinations like Mars. The capsule went through the launch, flight, two orbits of Earth and finally splash down.
The Orion space capsule is the first capsule built by NASA to take humans to Mars. The success of test flight makes Orion the first spacecraft designed for humans to fly beyond low-Earth orbit in more than four decades. NASA officials are hopefully about Orion to fly astronauts to and from farther destinations like Mars or even asteroid.
Mark Geyer, Orion Program Manager, said the flight itself was a success. Now we will be analyzing whether the design performed to what it was meant for and accordingly we will keep testing and rectifying as we design the next Orion. The flight has already demonstrated Orion to be a very capable vehicle.