"Five, four, three, two, one, and liftoff, at dawn! The dawn of Orion and a new era of American space exploration,” NASA commentators exclaimed Friday morning at the inaugural launch of the Orion spacecraft.
The craft finally took to the skies Friday after a postponed launch. It was scheduled to take off early Thursday, but due to reported gusty winds and a malfunctioning fuel valve, the mission was grounded until conditions cleared.
Orion circled the earth twice, reaching about 20,000 mph during its journey back to earth.
The craft splashed down into the Pacific Ocean near California four and a half hours after takeoff.
This initial test flight of the vehicle is the first in a series of planned missions designed to carry astronauts into deep space. NASA officials have called this launch the beginning of the Mars era.
Utah’s Alliant Techsystems Inc. supplied the launch abort motor and rocket boosters for the craft.