NASA's Orion test flight went off without a hitch - watch the epic launch here

After being pushed a day due to weather and some technical snafus, NASA’s first test flight of the cutting-edge new Orion spacecraft fired off this morning — and it just safely landed back on Earth after a successful mission.

The spacecraft is NASA’s next big push in the wake of the space shuttle’s retirement, and the agency plans to eventually use this ship as a jumping-off point for a future manned mission to Mars. The ship is designed to go farther in space than any vessel humans have ever created, and the test flight flew 3,600 miles away from Earth — farther out than we’ve been in 40 years.

It’s a big deal, and Mission Control commentator Rob Navias couldn’t contain his enthusiasm as the Orion capsule neared the water, noting: “There’s your new spacecraft, America.” Check out footage of the successful launch below:

The mission lasted 4.5 hours, just as scheduled, and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles southwest of San Diego. Some helpful folks in the Navy are fishing it out right now, and NASA will spend the next several days going through the findings and data to see exactly how all the components performed, and what we can learn from the test.

Additional test flights are planned over the next several years, ahead of a manned Mars mission at some point. Yeah, there’s still a long way to go, but this was a very big first step. Just ask the Curiosity Rover, who’s getting lonely up there:

(Via NASA, Orion)

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