Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Splashdown Tests for NASA's Orion Spacecraft near Completion

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Splashdown Tests for NASA's Orion Spacecraft near Completion

Article excerpt

HAMPTON, Va. - NASA on Thursday conducted the second-to-last splashdown test for its Orion spacecraft as the agency prepares to send humans to Mars. Scientists at NASA's Langley facility shot a test capsule into a pool of water at about 25 mph. The 11-foot craft disappeared behind a bowl-shaped splash before bouncing buoyantly against safety netting.

The last time a NASA spacecraft parachuted into the ocean with astronauts aboard was in the 1970s, during the Apollo moon-landing missions. The rules of physics haven't changed, but the technology has grown dramatically, NASA officials said.

The capsule's heat shield is no longer steel but carbon fiber and titanium, making it stronger and lighter. Instead of a couch-like seat to hold all of the astronauts, each will have his and her own custom-made chair, to better protect the spine. …

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