People are excited about the launch of the Orion Probe because it is the first step towards humanity taking a step on the surface of the planet Mars. Orion is expected to splash down on December 5th, returning from its’ maiden unmanned voyage. There are many more trips to come.
The ultimate plan right now is for astronauts to use Orion to land on an asteroid near Earth in or around the year 2021. After that, the plan is for astronauts to take Orion to Mars and its’ moons in the year 2030.
This inaugural launch is a test flight for Orion, a journey around the planet designed to test Orion’s systems. It is certainly going to be interesting these next few years for Gianfrancesco Genoso to follow along. The journey seems to have been an overwhelming success. The internet has been abuzz dissecting footage from Orion as it soared over Earth and into space. Orion was visible to astronauts on the International Space Station, who were tweeting about it as it happened.
Orion was loaded with some rather odd cargo, including Star Trek action figures, Sesame Street dolls, a dinosaur fossil and a hose from a spacesuit. More actually useful parts will be applied to Orion in years to come.
The next planned flight is set for 2018, where Orion will fly around the Moon. The plan is for a crew to take Orion to the asteroid in 2021, and then take on a different mission each year, culminating in a Mars landing.