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  • Writer's pictureZachary Epps

NASA Orion Makes Amazingly Fast Return in December

NASA's Orion capsule test is a significant step forward in the agency's efforts to send humans back to the Moon and, eventually, to Mars.



The Orion capsule is designed to carry astronauts beyond low Earth orbit, and its first test flight took place in December 2014.


The unmanned test flight of the Orion capsule, called Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1), was launched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft orbited the Earth twice and reached a peak altitude of 3,600 miles (5,800 kilometers) above the planet's surface.


The primary objective of the test was to evaluate the performance of the spacecraft's heat shield, which is crucial for protecting the crew during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. The heat shield is made of a material called Avcoat, which can withstand temperatures up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,204 degrees Celsius).


During the test, the heat shield experienced temperatures of around 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit as the capsule re-entered the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of 20,000 miles per hour (32,000 kilometers per hour). The heat shield performed flawlessly, demonstrating that it can withstand the extreme temperatures of re-entry.


Another important aspect of the Orion capsule test was the evaluation of the spacecraft's parachutes. The capsule's descent was slowed down by a series of parachutes, which deployed in sequence to slow the capsule's speed from around 300 miles per hour (480 kilometers per hour) to a safe landing speed of around 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour).


The parachutes also performed well during the test, with all three sets of chutes deploying as planned. This was a critical milestone for the spacecraft, as the parachutes are essential for a safe landing on the Earth's surface.


The Orion capsule test was an important step forward for NASA's human spaceflight program. It demonstrated that the spacecraft's heat shield and parachutes are capable of performing the critical functions required for a safe return to Earth.

The Orion spacecraft is a key part of NASA's plans to send humans back to the Moon and eventually to Mars. The spacecraft is designed to carry a crew of up to four astronauts and can support missions lasting up to 21 days.


The next step in the Orion program is the Artemis I mission, which is scheduled for launch in November 2021. This will be an unmanned test flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which will carry the Orion spacecraft on a mission around the Moon and back to Earth.


In conclusion, the Orion capsule test was a critical milestone for NASA's human spaceflight program. It demonstrated that the spacecraft's heat shield and parachutes are capable of performing the critical functions required for a safe return to Earth. The successful test paves the way for future crewed missions to the Moon and Mars, bringing us one step closer to realizing the dream of exploring and colonizing our solar system.


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Zachary Epps

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