NASA is ready to experiment with its new spacecraft Orion and launch it in space as first ever test mission to mars. This is the first spacecraft, after Apollo that will go out of earth orbit in preparation of future landing on Mars. It is a new challenge that NASA has taken that would take space science to a whole new level.
This is a next-generation space vehicle that is set to be launched on Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Total journey will be a four and half hours long, and the vehicle will be traveling 3,600 miles into the space. It will be received by a Navy ship on its landing back to earth and will be preserved for future use.
It is an extraordinary step and mission that would definitely set the astronauts on futuristic path. The project is worth around $370 million, and the most crucial test will be to slow down the spacecraft as it reenters the earth’s atmosphere from 20,000 mph to only 17 mph before it hits the Pacific Ocean.
NASA is looking forward to this pioneering launch and many such launches in the near future. After this mission, Orion would be tested and modified for more crucial trips in future. The next upcoming Orion test will be launched in 2017 or 2018. That future test will, for the first time send a fully robotic spacecraft to take a trip around the moon. That robotic vehicle, if operated successfully would be the world’s most powerful rocket.
The Orion spacecraft and its second version to be launched by 2018 are in just their initial steps. There are many concerns like budget, life security and fuel related issues that are yet to be addressed. NASA officials stated that if everything works out ideally as planned, they hope to land on Mars in 2030s.
Although NASA is ready to launch its first version of Orion this week, it is also working on the second version for future testing. NASA has to work on exploring high power solar electric energy for fuel, it has to upgrade its communication system which is currently radio-based and can only transmit limited amount of information. NASA is also working on development of a laser-based visual communication system for their spacecrafts.
NASA is also working on developing living quarters for astronauts on long trips. The trip is estimated to take a year to reach the surface of Mars. The agency is considering sending and setting up habitats for the astronauts near the moon’s orbit, the orbit of Mars and on the surface of Mars so the astronauts can pick and use the essentials on the go.
Orion is a differently designed capsule if compared with the older designed Apollo spacecraft. This extremely modern and more up to date capsule is 11 feet tall and can accommodate four astronauts. The Apollo could only hold three. It is the most state-of-the-art vehicle that has been manufactured with more advanced technologies.
As NASA is ready to launch the new test Orion spacecraft, it is also planning and working on missions for the next several test launches in coming years with the target of successful missions to Mars and its moons in the next 15 years.
By Atika Jilani
Photo Credit by NASA, ESA