Orion Space Craft on first steps to Mars

In Cape Canaveral, Florida on December 5, NASA sent the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, along with a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket, out of Earth’s orbit in the first test to see if NASA can send humans to Mars.

Entitled “Exploration Flight Test -1” (EFT-1), this mission is testing the Orion spacecraft’s ability to withstand heat and other key systems. If this test run goes smoothly, eventually the spacecraft will be used to send astronauts to asteroids and possibly Mars.

“We’re actually excited about this particular step on our journey to the Red Planet, to Mars,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said to the press on December 3. “It is a journey, I don’t want people to get focused on the destination. This is a journey.”

EFT-1 is the first human built spacecraft to travel out of low-Earth orbit in more than 40 years. There were approximately 20,000 spectators at the launch when it took off at 7:05 in the morning.

“The launch itself was just a blast to see how well the rocket did,” NASA’s Orion program manager Mark Geyer said. “It was exciting to see it as it went up into space. Being here at launch, being near a rocket that big, you just kind of feel it.”

The spacecraft is unmanned, but it is carrying memorabilia from earth under the “I’m on Board” social media campaign. The spacecraft has things like moon dust, a crew patch worn by Sally Ride, the first American astronaut in space, a Captain James Kirk doll from “Star Trek”, one of Cookie Monster’s cookies, and Ernie’s rubber ducky.

“It’s important it’s unmanned because we actually structured the test to fly the riskiest pieces of the flight,” Geyer said. “This is the time to do it, when it’s unmanned. We intend to stress the systems and make sure they behave as we designed them to. It is a test flight, and it’s set up to be a risky flight.”