Why You Should Be As Excited About Orion As your Grandparents Were About Apollo
In case you haven’t heard, we’re going to Mars. I’m not talking a robot or probe. I mean actual living, breathing, human beings.
Last week NASA, with help from Lockheed Martin, successfully performed the first flight test for Orion. You should get used to hearing that name. It’s our generation’s Apollo. Orion is “NASA’s first spacecraft designed for long-duration, human-rated deep space exploration. Orion will transport humans to interplanetary destinations beyond low Earth orbit, such as asteroids, the moon and eventually Mars.”
Since Mars is a much longer trip than the Moon, the operation will happen in stages, as opposed to just sending it to Mars. Just prior to the launch, I was able to spend a day at NASA Langley Research Center learning all about Orion and what is going into to the project.
In addition to the final goal of actually landing on Mars, NASA will be making other significant advancements along the way. One of the most notable for me was their planetary defense system. As mentioned before, Orion will land on an asteroid before it lands on Mars. When they do this, they will be able to collect samples to learn more about the asteroid, but they are also working on contingency plans in case an asteroid was ever on a trajectory that would hit the Earth. They would be able to send up a rocket, and using the 0 g environment, redirect the asteroid, so that it would not collide with us, landing us in history with the dinosaurs. Here’s a video of the simulators they are using! (You only need to watch until 3:07)
If you watch until the end of the video I included, you will also see a huge advancement for deep space travel: the inflatable house in space. How cool is that! For take off, they need the spacecraft to be as small and light as possible, but they also want a larger living space for the astronauts, as the journey will be many months (6, if I’m remembering correctly). Using similar material to a basket ball, they can create a habitat for the astronauts to live and work. This will be much more effective for deep space travel.
On top of all the amazing scientific things that are happening (and I only mentioned a few), Orion is already having amazing effects on the ground. “Lockheed Martin leads the Orion industry team which includes major subcontractors Aerojet Rocketdyne, United Technologies Aerospace Systems, and Honeywell, as well as an expansive network of minor subcontractors and small businesses in 45 states across the country.
“In addition, Lockheed Martin contracts with hundreds of small businesses across the United States through an expansive supply chain network. There are approximately 3,000 people who work on the Orion program nationwide, including contractors, civil servants, subcontractors, suppliers and small businesses.”
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Expanding the space industry would drastically affect our economy for the better. Yes, it’s pushing for the stars. Yes, it’s letting the next generation dream about reaching further. But it will forever change things here at home. The space industry can help create a stable economy, and the American people should understand how vital an investment that is.
Orion is amazing. What it will do is amazing. It is the next leap into the great beyond. Orion is the future.