A video recorded during NASA’s Orion return through the Earth’s atmosphere provides viewers a first look of the intense conditions astronauts will endure when they return from deep space destinations on the journey to Mars.
The video was recorded through windows in Orion’s crew module following its unmanned Dec 5 flight test, the US space agency said in a statement.
“Now, the public can have an up-close look at the extreme environment a spacecraft experiences as it travels back through the Earth’s environment from beyond low-Earth orbit,” NASA scientists said.
The video begins 10 minutes before Orion’s splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, just as the spacecraft was beginning to experience the Earth’s atmosphere.
Peak heating from the friction caused by the atmosphere rubbing against Orion’s heat shield comes less than two minutes later.
The footage shows the plasma created by the interaction change from white to yellow to lavender to magenta as the temperature increases.
As Orion emerges safely on the other side of its trial by fire, the camera continues to record the deployment of the series of parachutes that slowed it to a safe 20 mph for landing and the final splash as Orion touched down on the Earth.
Orion travelled 3,600 miles above the Earth on its 4.5-hour soace flight test, “farther than any spacecraft built for humans has been in more than 40 years.
Orion will travel faster and experience even higher temperatures on future missions when it returns from greater distances.
Orion’s flight test was a critical step on NASA’s journey to Mars.
Work has begun on the next Orion capsule which will launch for the first time on top of NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket and travel to a distant retrograde orbit around the moon