The flight of Orion was a giant step for mankind. The spacecraft took a short test flight on Friday, and NASA Glenn played a part in the mission.
When Orion left the launch pad Friday morning for its one-day flight, there were northeast Ohio engineers who where holding their breath.
Orion is the space craft that will take Americans further than ever before, some day to Mars. Friday was just a test flight, unmanned, to make sure the vehicle can handle an orbit in deep space, and then make the trip home.
"We have splashdown," the speakers at Cleveland's Science Center reported to the crowd of about 50. Those watching on the big screen
were starry-eyed kids, dreamers and those who have invested years on the project with their work at the Cleveland NASA Glenn.
"Huge emotion for me. Actually got a little teary-eyed watching the shoots come out there. I've spent a good portion of my career working
on it," said Jim Free director at Cleveland NASA Glenn.
In fact, some 60 engineers at Cleveland's NASA Glenn have been working for 10 years on different systems and components of Orion. Most
of the work done in northeast Ohio is on the inside. If you took the top of the rocket and divided it into three main parts, you would have the pointy top, which is the launch abort system, underneath it is the capsule, where astronauts will eventually ride, and the capsule sits on what is known as the service unit. Most of the work done at NASA Glenn deals with the service unit, which includes many of the rocket propulsion systems.
You might notice the spacecraft has left the shuttle design and gone back to a capsule. There's a reason for that.
"It's kind of what do you want to do with the mission long term?" explains Free. "The shuttle we could never take all the way out to Mars. 270,000+ pounds was going to be difficult to take it that far. This allows us to take a smaller vehicle out and bring it back."
According to Free, now that the celebrating is done, it's time to get back to work. There were more than 1,200 sensors on Orion collecting data. Back in Cleveland, they will analyze the information collected and see what should change before the next test flight in late 2017.
A manned test-flight could happen some time in 2020.