Humans On The Way To Mars

  • Dec 5, 2014 5:03am GMT

After a quiet three years NASA's Kennedy Space Center began the next venture in human spaceflight, taking people to Mars. Orion carried no human when it blasted off at dawn this morning on a test flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Today's flight will check out it's basic design and take it to an altitude of 5,800 kilometers (15 times farther from the Earth's surface than the International Space Station). 4 hours later it will splash down in the Pacific Ocean.

Mike Hawes, program manager at Lockheed Martin, the spacecraft's prime contractor said, "This is the first human-rated spacecraft that's gone beyond low-Earth orbit in 42 years,"

Today's flight costing roughly $370-million, brings hope that it will help NASA again launch its own astronauts in home-grown spacecraft from American soil. Orion will eventually launch on a new rocket in 2018, the most powerful booster yet developing 8.4-million pounds of thrust. NASA's plan is to send astronauts to an asteroid by the mid-2020s, establish a moon colony and go to Mars. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is to secure the funding for the astronomical cost. While NASA is a busy place today, Orion is not scheduled to fly for another 4 years and without that funding it will be a very quiet place again.