NASA suspends space capsule recovery test in ocean (Update)

Feb 21, 2014
This Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 photo released by NASA shows crews testing a test version of Orion's forward bay cover, NASA's next-generation space capsule. NASA and the Navy suspended the test Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 off the coast of San Diego after a problem was discovered. (AP Photo/NASA)

A training exercise designed to showcase the government's ability to recover a space capsule at sea was scrubbed after NASA ran into trouble off the Southern California coast, the space agency said Friday.

Crews had difficulty tying down a mock-up of the Orion capsule aboard an amphibious warship off the shores of San Diego.

NASA said cables attached to the capsule weren't strong enough to handle turbulence and snapped off twice while it was in the well deck of the USS San Diego before it could be moved out to sea on Thursday.

With the Orion mock-up still on the Navy ship, teams could not practice fetching the spacecraft from the ocean.

"Even though the testing didn't go as we had planned, we're learning lessons that will help us be better prepared to retrieve Orion," Bill Hill of NASA headquarters said in a statement.

Engineers were troubleshooting the problem, and it was not clear when the test would be rescheduled.

NASA has been developing a next-generation spacecraft to carry astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit, possibly to an asteroid or Mars. Orion, which will make its first unmanned test flight this fall, is being designed to travel to deep space and return at speeds of 25,000 mph (40,232 kph) by splashing down into the Pacific.

This Wednesday Feb. 19, 2014 photo released by NASA shows a test version of the Orion spacecraft, tethered inside the well deck of the USS San Diego prior to testing between NASA and the U.S. Navy. NASA and the Navy suspended the test Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 off the coast of San Diego after a problem was discovered. (AP Photo/NASA)

The water landing is a throwback to the 1960s and 1970s when Navy ships routinely tracked and recovered Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft after re-entering Earth's atmosphere.

With the space shuttle fleet retired, NASA has decided to go with an ocean splashdown. Unlike in the past, when helicopters would hoist astronauts after a mission, the new plan calls for an amphibious transport ship to dispatch divers and small boat teams to recover Orion and its crew.

Last year, NASA and the Navy practiced recovering the Orion in the calm waters of the Elizabeth River in Virginia with no problem.

Before the latest test was called off, NASA said crews successfully retrieved parts of the spacecraft, including the parachute and a protective covering.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was supposed to visit the test site Saturday, but his appearance was canceled.

Explore further: NASA's Orion spacecraft heads cross country

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Returners
4.5 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2014
We'll finally be back to a more practical, ultimately cheaper method of transport, though it may not be as visually appealing.

I await modern, digital film of seeing these capsules float to the surface via parachute.

On another note, I hope we do not spend the money for a manned mission to the moon, unless it's to install something like an observatory or to establish some sort of automated mining operation.

I feel Mars has much more to offer in terms of science and just human speculation and culture than does the Luna/Moon.

A Mars mission needs landing sites which are safe enough, but are also within walking or driving distance of a scientifically relevant feature. Studying meteor craters is for simians. The real gem is in the canyons, the volcanic craters, and in polar ice caps, or in the shadows of ridges in the tropics, where liquid water was allegedly sighted a few years ago.

I realize meteor craters are selected due to exposure of rock strata, but they are also contaminated.
Returners
3 / 5 (1) Feb 21, 2014
Dawn will show us the nature of Ceres, and whether a manned mission to a Dwarf Planet has anything to offer, as such a mission would be easier than Mars for certain reasons, but also more difficult than Mars for others. Landing on an ice-covered Asteroid or dwarf planet could be the most dangerous maneuver NASA will have ever attempted.

I hope that Dawn finds Ceres really is covered in enormous amounts of water-ice, because it will offer a source for future human space civilization for both biological needs and the fuel needs via hydrogen.

First of all though, we have this alleged capture mission to catch a small asteroid and study it in a pristine environment. Personally, I think this is probably a waste, since meteor remains are found all the time with their chemistry and internal crystal structures left in tact, which suggests to me they won't find much significantly different in space. Perhaps they'll find some minor surface dusting that doesn't survive entry.
GSwift7
4.7 / 5 (3) Feb 24, 2014
I think Ceres will probably become important to human expansion, once we begin, and probably towards the beginning of expansion, since it is one of the most useful pieces of real estate in the solar system. It is large enough to be used for shelter and has enough gravity to be useful. It's not much, but if you set something down you can expect it to be there when you come back. And the light gravity allows you build structures that you cannot build here in Earth's gravity, as well as land and launch easily. It's also a good bit farther out than Mars, and the farther out you go, the less solar radiation you have to deal with. Maybe a stretch to use solar power that far out, but it could still be done to some extent, especially if you start building solar panels from material found in the belt.