Well, of course NASA never really left. But it’s so exciting to see a successful launch, flight, and pinpoint touchdown of its next to-be-manned vehicle. The 4 1/2 hour mission this morning included liftoff, two orbits at up to 3,600 miles above Earth’s surface, and a “bulls eye splashdown” at 11:29 am ET off the coast of Baja California.
NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel described Orion’s future: ‘It’s designed for deep space, but Orion’s first mission will be back to the neighborhood of the moon. The plan is to have a robot capture a small asteroid and drag it back to lunar orbit. Then Orion will carry up to four astronauts to meet it. It’s all supposed to happen in the 2020s, though some say the mission is too complicated and not much of an advance.'”
It is hoped Orion will one day take astronauts to Mars.