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Final preparations for first Orion test flight

Orion poised to move to the launch pad. Photo courtesy of NASA.
Orion poised to move to the launch pad. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Final preparations are underway in Florida and on the West Coast for next week's first unmanned test mission of NASA's new deep space capsule Orion.

Orion is scheduled to launch Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a four-and-a-half-hour mission. It'll orbit the Earth twice, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

Mark Kirasich is deputy manager of NASA's Orion program.

"On the West Coast there are two Navy ships, which will pick the Orion capsule up after we land, and we're loading all of our recovery equipment onto those ships. And the NASA personnel and Navy divers who will support the recovery operations are getting ready to board the ships right after Thanksgiving."

The mission will test crucial systems like the heat shield and parachutes.

Orion is NASA's first new spacecraft in a generation, designed for deep space exploration. The space agency is billing Thursday's mission as a first step toward Mars.

Amy Green covered the environment for WMFE until 2023. Her work included the 2020 podcast DRAINED.