NASA: Orion will take us to Mars
Aug. 31, 2015
by Mark Ollig

When will the first human walk on the surface of the planet Mars?

What will the folks, who remembered seeing Neil Armstrong taking that first step onto the moon, think?

Many of you, along with me, no doubt vividly recall the July 1969 Apollo 11 moon-landing mission.

We watched the television screen in awe and wonderment; some of us even looked out the window and gazed up at the moon, as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on its surface.

There are a couple reasons I am writing about this.

The first is after re-watching the NASA video of the launch of the Orion EFT-1 (Exploration Flight Test) Dec. 5, 2014; I started thinking about those exciting Apollo missions from the ‘60s and early ‘70s.

The second reason is because my brother is having a birthday soon, and I know how he gets a kick out of reading these space-themed columns his kid brother pens.

So, dear brother, here’s another Bits & Bytes space column I hope you’ll enjoy.

The Orion EFT-1 launch was a full-scale, uncrewed, test flight.

A powerful Delta IV heavy rocket launched the Orion MPCV (Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle) into an Earth orbit roughly 15 times higher than that of the International Space Station.

In fact, this test flight saw Orion (to be used for crewed deep-space missions), reach a maximum distance from the Earth of 3,600 miles.

Orion’s successful test flight lasted 4 hours and 23 minutes.

It ended with the Orion crew module entering the Earth’s atmosphere, deploying its parachutes, and making a perfect splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Seeing this was nostalgic; it brought back feelings of excitement and drama comparable to an Apollo command module splashdown.

In fact, the Orion spacecraft crew module strongly resembles the familiar 1960s Apollo command module; although Orion is a bit larger.

Orion’s crew module will provide a sustainable living environment for its human, space-traveling occupants.

The attached Orion service module (resembling an Apollo-era service module), contains the oxygen, water, and power requirements for the crew module.

In comparison, the old Apollo command module could hold three astronauts, and was 12 feet 8 inches in diameter, whereas the Orion crew module holds four astronauts, and measures 16 feet 4-inches.

The crew and service modules of Orion physically look, and perform (more or less) the same basic functions as did the Apollo command and service module.

We will need to wait until 2021, before Orion sends people into space.

It won’t be until the 2030s, when the Orion spacecraft, with its human occupants, travels to Mars.

My message to NASA is: “Be safe, of course; but please hurry up with this Orion Mars-landing mission.”

I mention this, because after crunching the numbers, by the time Orion gets into orbit around Mars, say in 2035; yours truly will be 77 years old (and will probably be still writing this column).

This would be 66 years from when I first saw Armstrong walking on the moon, and hearing Walter Cronkite excitedly shout from the television set; “Man on the Moon! Oh, boy!”

Keep up with the latest news on Orion via its social media sites:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/NASA_Orion.

Facebook: http://facebook.com/NASAOrion.

Google+: http://plus.google.com/+NASAorion.

NASA Blog: http://blogs.NASA.gov/Orion.

NASA’s YouTube channel shows video of the liftoff of the Orion spacecraft (with some beautiful views from its onboard cameras) here: http://tinyurl.com/OrionEFT1.

Do you want your name to be sent to Mars?

NASA will place your name within a silicon microchip installed on the new InSight Mars rover/lander. It is scheduled to be launched to the Red Planet next year.

InSight will be conducting tests, and gathering soil and rock samples to identify what makes up the Martian planet; this includes drilling deep beneath its surface.

“By participating in this opportunity to send your name aboard InSight to the Red Planet, you’re showing that you’re part of that journey and the future of space exploration,” said Jim Green, who is the director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA is accepting name submissions until Sept. 8 at: http://tinyurl.com/insight2016. If you have not “flown” with NASA before, scroll down on this webpage to the “New Flyers” section to add your name.

The Insight Mars lander is slated to launch from Vandenberg AFB in CA, March 4, 2016, and will land at Elysium Planitia or “Plain of Ideal Happiness” on Mars in late 2016.

You can view my Mars Insight boarding pass here: http://tinyurl.com/bytes-bp.

NASA’s InSight website is: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/insight.

So, how will yours truly react when watching the first human to walk on the planet Mars?

You’ll need to read about it in a future column – after Orion gets there.

Have a happy birthday, Mike.

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