NASA’s Orion spacecraft returns to land after test flight

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 (PNA/Xinhua) — NASA’s new human spacecraft, Orion, has been brought back to shore by a U.S. navy ship after its successful first test flight that ended with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. space agency said Tuesday.

The Orion spacecraft was off-loaded from the well deck of the USS Anchorage Monday night after the amphibious ship docked in a naval base in San Diego, California, NASA said in a statement.

The ship’s crew helped retrieve the spacecraft from its splashdown point about 600 miles (960 kilometers) southwest of San Diego at the end of the 4.5-hour Orion test flight Friday.

The spacecraft then will be transported to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where engineers will gather more information about Orion’s performance.

“Orion is back on solid ground!” NASA tweeted. “60,000 miles ( 96,000 kilometers) in space, and 600 at sea — next up a 2,500- mile (4,000-kilometer) road trip home!”

Orion made an unmanned flight Friday that saw it fly about 3, 600 miles (5,800 kilometers) above Earth to test many of the systems most critical to crew safety, including key separation events and its heat shield.

During Orion’s re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft hit speeds of 20,000 mph (32,000 kph) and temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,200 degrees Celsius).

Orion is NASA’s next exploration spacecraft, and it is designed to carry astronauts to destinations in deep space, including an asteroid and Mars. (PNA/Xinhua)