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  • NASA's Orion launch a success: "There's your new spacecraft, America!"

    NASA's Orion launch a success: "There's your new spacecraft, America!"

    Xeni Jardin collects news, videos and images of the new Nasa launcher that will take humankind to Mars.

    Dec. 5, 2014 -- A Delta IV Heavy rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying NASA's Orion spacecraft on an unpiloted flight test to Earth orbit. Liftoff was at 7:05 a.m. EST. During the two-orbit, four-and-a-half hour mission, engineers will evaluate the systems critical to crew safety, the launch abort system, the heat shield and the parachute system. Photo: NASA

    NASA's new Orion spacecraft made a flawless launch, a glorious flight to space, and a "bull's-eye" splashdown today. The journey was "the most perfect flight you could ever imagine," said Mission Control commentator Rob Navias.

    Watch the stunning launch video:



    The entire operation was as close to perfect as it gets. The unmanned Orion craft launched successfully atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket today, Dec. 5 2014, at 7:05 a.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

    Orion splashed down some 4.5 hours later in the Pacific after a breathtaking test flight that reached 3,604 miles from earth, and in doing so, heralded a new era of manned spaceflight.

    Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) is the first flight test for NASA’s new deep space capsule and represents a critical step on NASA's journey to Mars.

    "There's your new spacecraft, America," said Navias when the Orion capsule prepared to splash down some 270 miles off Mexico's Baja California peninsula.

    Don't miss our earlier dispatch from Cape Canaveral by Sawyer Rosenstein, and here's the official NASA blog with a blow-by-blow of today's wonderful, historic flight. Go Orion! Some photos from NASA today, in more or less reverse chronological order.

    The Orion spacecraft has been powered down following a flawless first flight test. Photo: NASA


    The Orion spacecraft has been powered down following a flawless first flight test. Photo: NASA

    The recovery teams are within about 120 yards of the Orion crew module as it floats in the Pacific Ocean.  Photo: NASA


    The recovery teams are within about 120 yards of the Orion crew module as it floats in the Pacific Ocean. Photo: NASA

    The Orion crew module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean approximately 600 southwest of San Diego at 11:29 a.m. EST. Flight controllers have reported that the spacecraft is in a stable configuration. The recovery team from NASA, the U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin will perform initial recovery operations, including safing the crew module and towing it into the well deck of the USS Anchorage, a landing platform-dock, or LPD, ship. Photo: NASA


    The Orion crew module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean approximately 600 southwest of San Diego at 11:29 a.m. EST. Flight controllers have reported that the spacecraft is in a stable configuration. The recovery team from NASA, the U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin will perform initial recovery operations, including safing the crew module and towing it into the well deck of the USS Anchorage, a landing platform-dock, or LPD, ship. Photo: NASA

    Dec. 5, 2014 –- Following splashdown of the Orion crew module, U.S. Navy crews from the USS Anchorage began recovering the three parachutes while other teams began safing the spacecraft. After lines are attached, Orion will be towed into the well deck of the recovery ship, USS Anchorage. Photo: NASA


    Dec. 5, 2014 –- Following splashdown of the Orion crew module, U.S. Navy crews from the USS Anchorage began recovering the three parachutes while other teams began safing the spacecraft. After lines are attached, Orion will be towed into the well deck of the recovery ship, USS Anchorage. Photo: NASA

    Dec. 5, 2014 –- Following more than four hours in Earth orbit, NASA's Orion spacecraft is seen from an unpiloted aircraft as it descends under three massive red and white main parachutes. Splashdown in the Pacific Ocean will take place at less than 20 mph. It will be recovered by the USS Anchorage, a landing platform-dock, or LPD, ship. Photo: NASA


    Dec. 5, 2014 –- Following more than four hours in Earth orbit, NASA's Orion spacecraft is seen from an unpiloted aircraft as it descends under three massive red and white main parachutes. Splashdown in the Pacific Ocean will take place at less than 20 mph. It will be recovered by the USS Anchorage, a landing platform-dock, or LPD, ship. Photo: NASA

    Dec. 5, 2014 –- A video camera onboard NASA's Orion spacecraft captured views out the window during the heat of re-entry is the capsule plumitted back toward Earth. Photo: NASA


    Dec. 5, 2014 –- A video camera onboard NASA's Orion spacecraft captured views out the window during the heat of re-entry is the capsule plumitted back toward Earth. Photo: NASA

    Looking back at Earth: Dec. 5, 2014 – A camera in the window of NASA's Orion spacecraft looks back at Earth during its unpiloted flight test in orbit. Photo: NASA Television


    Looking back at Earth: Dec. 5, 2014 – A camera in the window of NASA's Orion spacecraft looks back at Earth during its unpiloted flight test in orbit. Photo: NASA Television

    An onboard camera records the separation of one of the Delta IV Heavy rocket boosters as it separates following lift off from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying NASA's Orion spacecraft on an unpiloted flight test to Earth orbit. Liftoff was at 7:05 a.m. EST. During the two-orbit, four-and-a-half hour mission, engineers will evaluate the systems critical to crew safety, the launch abort system, the heat shield and the parachute system. Photo: NASA


    An onboard camera records the separation of one of the Delta IV Heavy rocket boosters as it separates following lift off from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying NASA's Orion spacecraft on an unpiloted flight test to Earth orbit. Liftoff was at 7:05 a.m. EST. During the two-orbit, four-and-a-half hour mission, engineers will evaluate the systems critical to crew safety, the launch abort system, the heat shield and the parachute system. Photo: NASA

    An onboard camera provides a view of  Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy lifts off carrying NASA's Orion spacecraft on an unpiloted flight test to Earth orbit. Liftoff was at 7:05 a.m. EST. The flight test also will validate systems such as Orion’s parachutes, avionics and attitude control, and demonstrate major separation events such as the launch abort system jettison and the service module fairing separation. Photo: NASA


    An onboard camera provides a view of Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy lifts off carrying NASA's Orion spacecraft on an unpiloted flight test to Earth orbit. Liftoff was at 7:05 a.m. EST. The flight test also will validate systems such as Orion’s parachutes, avionics and attitude control, and demonstrate major separation events such as the launch abort system jettison and the service module fairing separation. Photo: NASA

    An onboard camera captures separation of the three 13 by 14-foot Orion service module fairings following lift off the Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The flight test also will validate systems such as Orion’s parachutes, avionics and attitude control, and demonstrate major separation events such as the launch abort system jettison and the service module fairing separation. Photo: NASA


    An onboard camera captures separation of the three 13 by 14-foot Orion service module fairings following lift off the Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The flight test also will validate systems such as Orion’s parachutes, avionics and attitude control, and demonstrate major separation events such as the launch abort system jettison and the service module fairing separation. Photo: NASA

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