Monday, December 8, 2014

NASA's Trip Into Deep Space


CNN News: "NASA's Orion capsule -- part of America's bid to take crews beyond low-Earth orbit for the first time since the Apollo missions -- splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Friday morning after lapping the planet twice on an uncrewed test flight."  

I was dancing around the room as the rocket took off.  At t-2:00 and counting, I yelled upstairs to my dad, not caring if anyone else woke up: "DAD! THE ROCKET'S GOT TWO MINUTES LEFT UNTIL LAUNCH!"  At t-1:00 and counting, I was biting my nails in suspense, thoroughly ignoring the plate of toast in front of me.  And at t-0:10 seconds, I counted down the time until launch with my dad nearly asleep on the chair next to me: "Ten!  Nine!  Eight!  Seven!  Six!  Five!  Four!  Three! (immense wall of sound as engines start to flare)  Two!  (the grass is riddled with fire)  One!  (in unison with the flight commander): AND WE HAVE LIFTOFF!"

I watched the TV broadcast until I had to leave for school, but when I left home the craft still had yet to get into orbit around the Earth.  It took a while for Orion to properly get in orbit around the Earth, and then it made two orbits around the planet in the span of four hours, finally landing off of the coast of California in the Pacific Ocean.  (CNN) -- "The flight took Orion farther from Earth than any craft designed for human flight since the Apollo 17 mission to the moon in 1972..."  How crazy is that? To think that NASA just sent up a spacecraft designed to transport humans into deep space?  I would love to be on that ship and get to see how our universe works.  Hopefully NASA will continue missions like this in the future so humans can increase their literacy of our universe.

Orion: Spacecraft of the Future

Every teenager knows the feeling of immense tiredness, the one that makes you want to shut your eyes for "just five minutes more", when you have to wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning for school.  I know that when I have to wake up early, I try everything possible to try and sleep some more.  But on the morning of the inaugural flight of the Orion spacecraft that would run a 4-hour test flight around the Earth and splash down in the Pacific Ocean, I couldn't have been more awake.

5:55 AM - Alarm goes off.  Wildly clawing the air, I finally manage to punch the top of my iHome to shut the darn thing up.  My eyes drift closed...BUT WAIT.  There's a rocket launch today!  If I sleep, I miss the entire launch!!!

5:57 AM - My dad, who heard my alarm, stands at the foot of my stairs and says "Do you want to come see the launch?"  Needless to say, I trip over my shoes in the rush to run downstairs and turn the NASA TV station on.

6:01 AM - NASA TV is on.  The rocket engineers have started the countdown to launch Orion into the atmosphere.  I tear my eyes from the screen to look at our Christmas tree next to the fireplace.  

6:04 AM - The countdown has stopped at t-3:45.  "There's too much wind around the base of the rocket for NASA engineers to allow it to launch.  We'll update you when we have a new flight time."

6:30 AM - They've tried again.  Still too much wind.

7:00 AM - Mission aborted at t-3:25 due to a stuck hydrogen fuel valve.  "We've moved the mission to launch again tomorrow at the same time, 7:05 AM Eastern Time and 6:05 AM Central Time."

I watched the Orion Mission Failure Press Briefing later that day to get some information on the flight itself.  (CNN) — "The test launch of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft has been postponed until Friday...[it] was delayed for various reasons, including wind gusts, a boat coming too close to the launch area, and a failure of some fuel valves to close in the booster rockets, NASA said."  I remember hoping and hoping that the rocket would launch, because it is the first of many flights that will culminate in sending a manned spacecraft on a flight into deep space around 2021.  (CNN) -- "One of Orion's tasks might be to send astronauts to an asteroid -- perhaps one that NASA would first robotically redirect to orbit around the moon. NASA says it hopes that Orion, pushed by a more powerful rocket system under development, will send astronauts to an asteroid in the 2020s."  I would be absolutely thrilled to be on a spacecraft such as Orion in the future!  I think that it is a mission that will help us further our understanding of deep space and our universe itself.  

What are your thoughts on the missions to come?  Do you think we should be sending people into deep space?