NASA’s Orion Space Capsule Completes Successful Test Flight

Written by: Lisa Stelzner

Primary Source: Daily Dose of Science Blog

Yesterday, Orion, a spacecraft built by NASA to hold up to six crew members, was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida, orbited the Earth twice, and landed in the Pacific Ocean off of Baja California.  After the disastrous news during the past two months from Virgin Galactic, whose rocket-fired space plane to be used for space tourism crashed, and the Antares rocket, which was bringing cargo to the International Space Station exploded after launch, this successful news was very welcome.  Orion’s flight is also groundbreaking for several reasons:
1) It was the first spacecraft designed to be manned that made it past low-Earth orbit since 1972, when Apollo 17 flew to the moon. Orion’s second orbit was at 3,600 miles above Earth, which is 15 times higher than the International Space Station’s orbit.
2) The plan for Orion is to send astronauts to an asteroid, Mars’s moons, and eventually Mars, once more powerful rockets are developed.

Orion’s total flight time was 4.5 hours, and appeared to be flawless from initial information. More data from sensors on the spacecraft will be analyzed next to make sure everything worked properly.

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Lisa Stelzner
I'm a plant biology PhD student studying monarch butterflies in Michigan, but I'm interested in lots of other types of science, too. I am interested in how breeding monarch butterflies choose their habitat based on floral species richness and abundance. Few studies have been conducted on optimal foraging theory when it involves an organism searching for two different kinds of resources, and butterflies are an ideal study system to investigate this, since many species are ovipositing specialists and only lay eggs on one species of hostplant, but are feeding generalists and nectar from a broad variety of flowering forbs.