After a 24-hour delay, NASA successfully launched Orion this morning.
The next generation aircraft is designed to take humans to Mars sometime in the 2030s, and today's test flight showed it should be able to do so. After orbiting the Earth twice, the spacecraft is already back, "gently bobbing" in the Pacific Ocean. Good to see you, old friend.
NASA's livestream showed Orion returning to Earth, and another camera shot its descent. The grainy shots don't much compare to NASA's artist illustrations — here's an approximation of Orion's heat shield on its return to Earth.
But they are beautiful in their own right. Here's what Earth looks like from Orion, roughly 10-15 minutes ahead of touchdown:
And here are shots of Orion with its parachutes deployed, descending jellyfish-like to our humble planet:
And here it is, in serene motion:
And here it is, in serene motion, enhanced by Wagner:
GIF and video by Andy Dubbin
If Orion's recovery is smooth, the mission will be a complete success.
Needless to say, those following Orion's journey are psyched.
Congrats NASA. Can't wait to hitch a ride to Mars in 20 years.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.