NASA’s Orion capsule lands on the moon
NASA announced Monday it will land on the Moon on Wednesday, ending a three-year mission to explore the Red Planet and potentially colonize Mars.
The space agency’s Orion spacecraft, which is used to carry astronauts into space, is scheduled to fly by 11:30 a.m.
EDT (0270 GMT) Wednesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, where the spacecraft was built.
It will touch down on the surface of the moon at an altitude of 6.6 miles (10 kilometers).
“This historic achievement will demonstrate the enduring value of NASA and the Orion spacecraft to the American people, and is an important milestone in the development of an advanced space transportation system that will allow us to boldly go where no one has gone before,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.NASA officials say the mission will test the craft’s ability to land on a surface of a hostile moon or Mars.
It also will allow engineers to study the craft and its technologies to learn more about what the craft can and cannot do.NASA and Lockheed Martin Corp., the U.S. aerospace and defense giant that developed the Orion capsule, have said they hope to fly humans into space by 2030.
They plan to begin a test flight of the spacecraft this fall, and have said it will take about 18 months to land and retrieve astronauts.
The Orion capsule has a crew of about 250 people, including astronauts, flight engineers and support technicians, and it will be equipped with a navigation system that allows it to land safely on a planet’s surface.NASA has said the Orion will help provide human explorers with a cheaper, faster and more reliable means to travel to distant planets and asteroids.
The company is planning to fly astronauts on the Orion, called Orion 1, in a test mission in 2018 and 2021.
The Orion capsule was designed to carry people into space but is designed to return to Earth after the missions.
The flight will be the first time the Orion has flown, but officials said they expect to be able to fly the capsule again as early as 2020.
The mission will be conducted with NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, which carries the Orion vehicle and a spacecraft called the Mars Exploration Rover.
The vehicle is currently being tested in the Mojave Desert, Calif., near California’s Mojave Air and Space Port.NASA said it plans to land its Orion capsule on the lunar surface, but the mission is not expected to be ready for astronauts until 2021, when the agency will launch Orion 1.