Orion crew capsule gets first mission scheduled for 2014

We've been hearing rather a lot about NASA's new Space Launch System and Orion capsule, which will (hopefully) take us humans to comets, asteroids, and Mars. It all has to start somewhere, though, and NASA has just announced plans for Orion's first mission.

Since Orion is intended to carry out deep space exploration, this first test mission is only worthwhile if the spacecraft spends some time outside of low Earth orbit. The plan is to send the capsule through two orbits, ending up farther from Earth than any craft intended for human transport has been since 1973. Then, Orion will come screaming back down at 20,000 miles per hour for a splashdown in the Pacific.

Here's an animation of how it's all going to work:

Below, check out a full-scale test of what the splashdown will look like, and ask yourself whether you think Orion was supposed to end up upside-down like that.

Via NASA

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