'YES! Splashdown!' Orion Returns to Earth

It traveled 60K miles
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 5, 2014 10:43 AM CST
Updated Dec 5, 2014 10:57 AM CST
'YES! Splashdown!' Orion Returns to Earth
In this photo provided by NASA,the United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket, with NASA's Orion spacecraft mounted atop, lifts off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.   (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls)

As the official Orion Spacecraft Twitter feed put it: "YES! Splashdown!" In just 4.5 hours, Orion traveled 60,000 miles and went farther into space than any ship designed for humans has gone in 42 years, reports NASA. Orion landed, stable and upright, in the Pacific at 11:29am, having gone from a peak speed of 20,000mph to 20mph using "some maneuvers, 11 parachutes," reports ABC News. Roughly halfway through Orion's journey, ABC News noted that its systems were performing perfectly, including Orion's on-board electronics, even after it passed through the Van Allen radiation belts.

Space.com notes that the spacecraft hit a peak altitude of 3,604 miles from Earth; it experienced temps of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit during re-entry, which is two times hotter than molten lava. NASA is counting on future Orions to carry astronauts beyond Earth's orbit to asteroids and, ultimately, the grand prize: Mars. "There's your new spacecraft, America," Mission Control commentator Rob Navias said as the Orion capsule neared the water, per the AP. (More Orion stories.)

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