12/03/2014 01:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Orion Spacecraft Launch To Test NASA Capsule That May Take Humans To Mars

Tomorrow is a big day for NASA.

On Dec. 4 at 7:05 a.m. EST, the space agency is set to launch its Orion spacecraft, a new capsule that one day may ferry humans to an asteroid or even Mars.

Orion, which has been in development since 2005, is scheduled for liftoff aboard a Delta IV Heavy in Cape Canaveral, Fla. If all goes according to plan, splashdown should occur in the Pacific Ocean around 11:29 a.m. EST.

"This has shown it’s a good design, it's a good mission and now it's time to go fly," Mark Geyer, program manager of Orion based at Johnson Space Center in Houston, said in a statement from NASA.

During its 4.5-hour uncrewed flight, Orion will orbit Earth twice and reach an altitude of 3,600 miles--that's almost 14 times higher than the orbit of the International Space Station.

When it returns to Earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft will be moving at 20,000 mph, generating scorching temperatures of up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit on Orion's heat shield. That's about 80 percent as hot as Orion would get if it returned from the moon.

To learn more about the test flight, take a look at the infographic below.

Source All about our solar system, outer space and exploration.



Spaceflight Firsts