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NASA's Orion Spacecraft Due To Arrive In San Diego

The Orion floats in the Pacific with stabilizing balloons inflated as the USS Anchorage moves int to retrieve the spacecraft.
NASA
The Orion floats in the Pacific with stabilizing balloons inflated as the USS Anchorage moves int to retrieve the spacecraft.

NASA's newest space vehicle, Orion, is heading to San Diego after accomplishing its first test flight and splashing down off Mexico's Baja peninsula.

According to NASA, the Orion is currently nestled inside the well deck of the amphibious ship USS Anchorage and is due to arrive at Naval Base San Diego on Monday.

San Diego news media and members of the city's science community, including Ruben H. Fleet Science Center CEO Steve Snyder, will be on hand to welcome the space capsule between 9 and 11 p.m.

Snyder is scheduled to come on KPBS Midday Edition Tuesday to talk about what he saw and discuss what Orion means future of space exploration. Francis French of the San Diego Air & Space Museum is also scheduled for the show.

Crewmembers of the USS Anchorage recovered Orion on Friday after it shot more than 3,600 miles out from Earth and returned with the capsule intact.

During Orion’s re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft endured speeds of 20,000 mph and temperatures near 4,000 degrees F.

NASA is counting on future Orions to carry astronauts out into the solar systems, to Mars and beyond.

Once the 11-foot tall capsule arrives in San Diego, it will be offloaded from the ship, onto a truck and returned to Cape Canaveral just in time for Christmas.

Engineers will use data collected during the flight to improve Orion's design, the space agency said. The flight tested Orion's heat shield, avionics, parachutes, computers and key spacecraft separation events, exercising many of the systems critical to the safety of astronauts who will travel in Orion.

The next test isn't expected until 2017, and Orion's first manned mission — to an asteroid orbiting the moon — could be seven years away, according to Space.com.

The last time a NASA vehicle that could carry people traveled so far into space was in 1972 with the last of the agency's Apollo moon missions. Since then, NASA has only launched craft designed to carry crew just a few hundred miles from Earth.

Corrected: September 27, 2022 at 9:34 AM PDT
City News Service contributed to this report.
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