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Galileo's Pendulum

Of space capsules and Cookie Monsters

7 Dec 2014, 15:02 UTC
Of space capsules and Cookie Monsters
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On Friday, NASA performed its latest test of the Orion capsule, the next-generation spaceship that will carry human crews. Since the long-overdue retirement of the Space Shuttle, the United States space program has relied on Russia to get astronauts into orbit. But Orion is more than a Space Shuttle replacement: it’s intended to travel beyond […]

Back in 2011, I watched an early splashdown test of the Orion capsule at NASA’s Langley facility. Here’s the capsule on its pendulum, just before releasing it to splash into a pool of water below. [Credit: moi]On Friday, NASA performed its latest test of the Orion capsule, the next-generation spaceship that will carry human crews. Since the long-overdue retirement of the Space Shuttle, the United States space program has relied on Russia to get astronauts into orbit. But Orion is more than a Space Shuttle replacement: it’s intended to travel beyond Earth orbit, possibly even to Mars. Friday’s test flight (originally scheduled for Thursday, but scrubbed after a run of bad luck) was uncrewed, but designed to check Orion’s ability to fly through the Van Allen radiation belts, reenter the atmosphere, and land in the ocean. The total flight lasted 4 hours and 24 ...

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