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NASA Returns To Space In 2014

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For an organization that was supposedly going the way of the dodo bird, NASA sure is in the news a lot lately.  They’re announcing new solar sails experiments, working on tractor beams, and (maybe?) getting what funding they still have slashed some more.  Well, here’s another NASA news item:  an unmanned test flight of the Orion spacecraft in 2014, three years earlier than originally planned.  Yes, it’s an unmanned flight, but one with great implications for future human deep space exploration.  The Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) features a new Space Launch System (SLS), which the NASA press release says “will take astronauts farther into space than ever before, create U.S. jobs, and provide the cornerstone for America’s future human spaceflight efforts.”

Orion will be launched into space, orbit twice “to a high-apogee” (basically, to a good distance from the Earth), then bust back through the atmosphere at high speeds.  Orion will launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla, and make a water landing after re-entry.  The hope with EFT-1 is that it will provide essential data in figuring out how to design a spacecraft that can survive speeds upwards of 20,000 mph and return astronauts safely from greater distances outside of Earth’s orbit.  NASA says it’s developing Orion to bring humans to the moon, asteroids, Mars, “and other destinations” via SLS, but being able to travel at high speeds and still re-enter safely is also a basic requirement for any kind of craft for manned deep space exploration.

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for space exploration and NASA nerds of late, but moving a test flight up instead of postponing it might show there is hope yet.

Comments

  1. Bill says:

    Thanks for the update on Orion. It will be awesome when human spaceflight really ramps up again. 

    In the meantime, NASA won’t be ‘returning’ to space in 2014. As I type this, there are active missions at Mercury, the Moon, Mars, the asteroid belt, Saturn and beyond the borders of the solar system – plus others on their way right now to Jupiter and Pluto.

    It’s just that instead of astronauts, these missions are staffed by robots – not giant freakin ones, but pretty cool anyway :). Check out: this list and this list of all the missions and how to see pictures and news from all of them.

  2. Saralyn says:

    Point taken on the article title and thanks for the great links!