Back with a splash – Orion returns to Earth (video and photos)

6 Dec 2014

The prospect of deeper missions into space for mankind has taken a step closer to reality – well, 5,800 kilometres closer – when the Orion spacecraft landed with a splash yesterday in the Pacific Ocean.

The spacecraft launched into space yesterday and returned after four and a half hours further into space than any craft designed for astronauts has travelled in 40 years.

Orion blazed into the morning sky at 7:05 a.m. EST, lifting off from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket.

Four and a half hours later it landed with bull’s-eye precision where it was meant to, 600 miles southwest of San Diego.

The spacecraft hit speeds of 20,000 miles and reached an altitude of 3,600 miles (almost 5,800 kilometres) above earth.

Orion travelled twice through the Van Allen belt where it experienced radiation and as it descended back into Earth’s atmosphere weathered temperatures of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The significance of the successful flight is that it may mean manned missions to Mars will be possible by the 2030s.



Orion lifts off aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket at 7.05 EST in Florida -Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA administrator Charles Bolden and William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, monitor the spacecraft as it returns to Earth and splashes down in the Pacific. Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Orion module about to make a splash 600 miles southwest of San Diego

Welcome aboard the USS Anchorage

Safely home

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years