Following the disappointment of a last-minute delay, the Orion spacecraft was successfully launched early Friday morning.
At dawn, Orion began a brief but extremely important mission.
The launch meant that the unmanned craft would orbit the Earth twice, getting as far away from the planet as 3,600 miles.
This would mean that Orion would have traveled further from Earth than any spaceship since the Apollo mission.
It's expected that Orion will reach a speed of 20,000 miles per hour four hours after launch, enough to push it beyond the upper limits of the Earth's atmosphere.
Just a few minutes after that, Orion is expected to crash safely into the Pacific Ocean, making its launch and flight one of the most important successes for NASA in recent history.
And we have lift off! @NASA hopes #Orion will usher in a new era of space exploration: http://t.co/pYWeg95Ra6 pic.twitter.com/HA6t9KfuXlOrion will mean a significant step in the direction of manned space exploration.
— CNN (@CNN) December 5, 2014
This successful launch came a day after the Thursday attempt was cancelled, and during Friday the launch was delayed four times!
Weather conditions were largely to blame as NASA refused to take any risks that the Orion mission would fail.
With a brief two-hour window to work with, NASA had to hope for the best possible conditions under which to launch the Orion space capsule from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
"It was a thunderous launch." -- Chip Reid from @NASAKennedy on #Orion launch pic.twitter.com/n55FrfNPTYSaid NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, "I think it's a big day for the world, for people who know and like space."
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) December 5, 2014
He added that regardless of whether the Orion launch was a success, what "did go right" in the mission meant that they would have reduced the risks for future space missions.
NASA released a statement about the Orion shuttle launch and its purpose in order to better help the public understand its significance.
The flight is designed to test many of the most vital elements for human spaceflight and will provide critical data needed to improve Orion's design and reduce risks to future mission crews.This includes facing the intense exposure to radiation in the lower Van Allen Belt brought on by solar winds.
The data gathered from Orion during this short, and yet very grueling flight, will provide all sorts of information about how manned vessels destined for asteroids, nearby planets, and beyond, must be constructed in order to face the rigorous conditions of outer space.
#Orion's cameras are turned off as it enters intense radiation of the lower Van Allen Belt.The Curiosity rover and the European Space Agency's Philae lander were key successes in unmanned space exploration, but Orion's success will mean that we have gotten closer to realizing a once-impossible dream.
— Orion Spacecraft (@NASA_Orion) December 5, 2014
Following the successful launch of the Orion capsule, do you believe humans are ready to engage in manned missions to space?
[Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons]