Watch the video above: NASA’s Orion spacecraft falls back to Earth.
TORONTO – NASA has released a video of the Orion capsule’s fiery descent following its four-and-a-half hour flight in space.
Orion, the spacecraft that will take humans to Mars, launched on Dec. 5 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The unmanned craft travelled 15 times farther than the International Space Station for its first test flight, EFT-1.
The video was shot through the window of the spacecraft as it descended. It begins 10 minutes before it landed off the coast of Baja California.
Two minutes into the video, plasma — heated gases from the Earth’s atmosphere — reaches its peak temperature and can be seen enveloping the craft. The colour of the plasma changes from white to yellow to lavender as the temperature increases.
Orion reached a speed of 32,000 km/h and a temperature near 2,200 C during its descent. Parachutes slowed it to a safe 32 km/h as it splashed down after its successful mission.
Eventually, when astronauts return from Mars, the craft will go even faster and reach higher temperatures.
The next planned launch, which will also be unmanned, is expected in 2018 which will take it around the moon.