NASA is holding a live briefing on Tuesday at 1 p.m. EST in preparation for Thursday’s first historic launch of the Orion spacecraft, which will eventually launch astronauts from U.S. soil again to the moon, an asteroid and all the way to Mars.
NASA will launch Orion for the first time after 7 a.m. Thursday aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket, which will send the spacecraft on a 4.5-hour test flight 3,600 miles above Earth, during which it will orbit the planet twice before re-entering the atmosphere at 20,000 mph and reach temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. (RELATED: NASA Previews First December Test Flight Of New Orion Spacecraft, Which Will Carry Astronauts To Mars)
According to NASA, Thursday’s Exploration Flight Test-1 will take Orion “farther than any crewed spacecraft has gone in more than 40 years” to test the spacecraft’s critical systems.
Orion will then deploy two stages of parachutes for a splashdown in the Pacific, returning to Earth with troves of flight data for NASA engineers to analyze in preparation to send astronauts deeper into space than they’ve gone in decades, and beyond.