NASA's Orion in Port of LA After Splashdown Practice

Orion is designed to carry humans into space and return crewmembers safely with a splashdown in the ocean

A test version of a spacecraft developed to take humans farther into space than ever before is at the Port of Los Angeles after water recovery exercises off the coast of Southern California.

NASA's Orion is designed to transport astronauts into space -- possibly an asteroid or Mars -- and return its crew safely to Earth. That return trip involves a 20,000-mph blast through the atmosphere before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean and a rendezvous with a recovery ship.

NASA just completed recovery tests with the U.S. Navy off the coast of San Diego. NASA officials plan to discuss the tests, other details about the spacecraft and deep-space exploration plans Wednesday at the Port of Los Angeles, where the capsule is in the belly of the USS Anchorage.

The spacecraft is in the Port of LA during Navy Days, an event that includes ship tours in San Pedro.

Orion's first flight test is scheduled for later this year. The spacecraft will blast off on top of a powerful Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, allowing scientists to study the spacecraft's re-entry systems, such as parachutes and its heat shield.

The capsule is designed to detach from the central core booster -- part of NASA's new heavy rocket system -- in low-Earth orbit. The upper-stage booster then thrusts the capsule into orbit before lifting the capsule to 3,600 miles -- about 10 times beyond the point any manned spaceship has reached since 1972.

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