NASA’s success in Orion’s trip into space on Friday morning is likely to boost its profile in its funding campaign to support space exploration. The spacecraft was launched into space at 8:29 am at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Airforce Station. It splashed back into the Pacific Ocean four and a half hours later, bringing with it valuable data that engineers at the station will analyse in preparation for future space exploration.
It splashed into the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles from San Diego in California. In it were souvenirs and test equipment.
The successful landing of the space vessel is good news for the space-exploration industry that has seen its image tarnished by two consecutive failed attempts in the last few months. In October, an unmanned commercial rocket taking supplies to the International Space Station burst into flames immediately after take off in Virginia. A few days later, a spacecraft belonging to Virgin Galactic crashed in California during a test flight. The pilot was killed. The co-pilot was injured.
Named after one of the largest objects in the night sky, Orion will be ferried from San Jose, California, to Cape Canaveral, Florida where engineers will study the data brought back by the spacecraft.
NASA spokesman said the spacecraft operated without any flaws during the test flight, but landed less than a mile from its intended destination. The artifacts on board Orion included part of a dinosaur fossil, a sample of lunar soil, and a recording of Mars movement from The Planets by Gustav Holt.
The capsule will be ferried back to Kennedy Space Center in Florida where engineers will analyse the data collected and assess the mission’s success. NASA official William H. Gerstenmaier said the initial review looked promising. He said his team looked forward to learning a lot from the data. He added that NASA’s Success in the Orion Space trip will be a boost to the funding Campaign for other space exploration projects. The research institution hopes that Orion will fly astronauts to Mars in future.
NASA spent $137 million on the project, which marks the beginning of several others planned over the next ten years. The next one is scheduled for 2018. NASA expects to ferry astronauts into space in the spacecraft scheduled to travel into the orbit in 2021.
Professor Jeff Hoffman of Massachusetts Institute of Technology lauded NASA’s success. He said even though it will be a long time before Orion can carry people to space, Friday’s successful trip was an important and significant step. Speaking to the Chicago Tribune by telephone, he said Orion’s failure to reach into the orbit would have been a tremendous setback to space exploration.
Lockheed Martin vice president and the project’s program manager Mike Hawes expressed his satisfaction at Orion’s success. He said there were moments when he found himself holding his breath during the flight, but he was satisfied with Orion’s successful trip.
Henry Hertzfeld, research professor of space policy and international affairs at George Washington University, said Orion’s success was good for the industry as well as for the country after the two recent disasters. NASA’s Success in Orion’s Space trip will be a boost to its funding campaign for future exploration projects.
By Benedicto Ateku