We still have a long way to go until NASA actually puts a man on Mars, but we’re about to take one big step in the right direction. Say hello to the future.
NASA has been working on the Orion spacecraft for a while now, and the time has finally come for the first test flight of the first manned spacecraft since the space shuttle’s retirement. It might not look like much, but if all goes according to plan, this could be the first craft to actually carry humans to Mars.
As The Washington Post notes, the Orion craft is a different animal than those sexy craft being put together by private firms like Space X. Those ships are designed to ferry crews to and from the International Space Station — while Orion represents NASA’s first ship aiming for travel deeper into our solar system (i.e. Mars). The look mirrors the classic Apollo craft, but Orion is much more advanced.
To prove it, the 4.5-hour unmanned test flight scheduled for Thursday will blast off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and travel 3,600 miles above the surface of the planet — which is farther than any spacecraft has gone in the past 40 years. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden put it bluntly: It’s “a BFD.” Considering the 40-year gap, we’re inclined to agree.
The test flight will put the craft through its paces and see how it reacts, something NASA says should be a step toward putting Mars “within the reach of astronauts in the 2030s.” But first we have another unmanned test set for 2018, along with the first manned flight (woohoo!) in 2021. Not surprisingly, the lengthy delay between flights is “budget-driven.” Heck, at this pace we might build FTL technology by the time they get around to it.
Regardless, we’re psyched NASA is actually showing some tangible momentum toward a trip to Mars. Check out the Orion patiently waiting on its assembly pad below and cross your fingers that all goes according to plan this Thursday.
(Via Washington Post)