With today’s “go” order given to Thursday’s planned first test flight for the new Orion spacecraft, NASA is on the verge of officially launching what could be the next big era for space exploration.
While the first flight will be unmanned and take only a handful of hours, it’s a crucial test for the new craft, which is pegged to carry astronauts into space in 2021 - first to explore an asteroid captured and put into orbit around the moon, and eventually to explore the surface of Mars in the 2030s.
Remember just weeks ago when we were excited about a probe landing on a comet? Yeah, NASA has some next-level plans ahead in the years to come - assuming the test flight goes well.
If weather permits - there’s a 60% chance of launch as of this writing - the Orion will take off bright and early on Thursday, 4 December from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The above video offers a great look at what’s planned, including the climb to more than 3,600 miles above Earth and reentry with multi-stage parachute dispersal.
It’s amazing to think that this is the first craft designed for manned deep space exploration since the Apollo missions decades ago. Waning interest and budget cuts have impeded space travel for so long, but we may finally be on the cusp of something new and exciting with Orion. Fingers crossed, at least.