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Orion

AP Photo/Gregory Bull

NASA's new Orion spacecraft returned to dry land in Southern California after a test flight that ended with a plunge into the Pacific Ocean.

Navy ship, the USS Anchorage, delivered the capsule to Naval Base San Diego and unloaded the 11-foot-tall cone around 10 p.m. PST Monday.

Orion made an unmanned flight Friday that carried it 3,600 miles above Earth to test the spacecraft's systems before it carries astronauts on deep space missions. During re-entry into the atmosphere, the spacecraft endured speeds of 20,000 mph and temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

NASA TV/AP

NASA's unmanned Orion spacecraft has successfully splashed down about 400 miles west of La Paz, Mexico, in the Pacific Ocean after a liftoff, two orbits and reentry that lasted just under 4 1/2 hours.

Orion, which could one day take astronauts to Mars, made a "bullseye splashdown" at 11:29 a.m. ET, mission control said, after the spacecraft enduring a searing 4,000 degree Fahrenheit re-entry before being gently lowered to the ocean surface under four giant red-and-white parachutes.

Space Florida is Riding on Orion

Dec 4, 2014

Orion, NASA's deep-space exploration spacecraft, remained on the launch pad Thursday as a series of delays pushed its scheduled maiden flight to Friday.

But the vessel sitting atop the massive Delta 4 rocket is expected to one day push man to the Moon, asteroids and Mars, and Florida's aerospace leaders believe the state will remain at the forefront of those efforts.

Radislav Sinyak NASA/Rad Sinyak

At 7:05 a.m. Thursday, the unmanned Orion test vehicle is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket to begin a two-orbit, four-and-a-half hour mission called Exploration Flight Test-1.

NASA is about to launch a new spaceship into orbit, and Mallory Loe has never heard of it.

"I mean, technically, NASA doesn't have another spaceship, do they?" she asks incredulously during a visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

She's hardly the only one who doesn't know about this new spacecraft. In fact, none of a half-dozen tourists NPR interviewed in the museum's lobby was aware of the Orion spaceship.

Orion Makes A Move

Sep 12, 2014
Rad Sinyak / NASA

NASA has finished building the crew module of its newest spacecraft- Orion.

The spacecraft was moved out of the Kennedy Space Center facility Thursday where engineers have been getting it ready.

Orion’s cone-shaped crew module, stacked on top of a white service module, emerged from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building on a special flat bed transporter.

It was moved to a new facility where it will be fueled up with ammonia and hyper propellants for its test flight slated for December.

The crew capsule can seat four astronauts.