If you think sending astronauts speeding to a point 40,000 miles beyond the moon is difficult, try bringing them back.
In coming years, NASA will launch an unmanned spacecraft and then, if all goes well, a manned Orion spacecraft deeper into the solar system than any other manned craft has ever gone.
It’s impressive, but on its return trip, Orion will need to slow down from 25,000 mph to just 300 mph as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere.
From there, the craft needs to slow to just 20 mph as it (hopefully) splashes down gently in the water, according to NASA.
Critical to success will be getting to the astronauts in the Orion as fast as possible. This is where the Navy comes in.
This week, NASA experts and sailors were aboard the transport dock Anchorage to practice retrieving a mock capsule in the ocean and securing it. Here are some scenes (and video) from their practice session:
Sailors assist with Orion test article recovery operations in the well deck aboard the amphibious transport dock Anchorage. (BM3 Matthew Jones/Navy)
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Sailors from Special Boat Team 12 catch a heaving line attached to the NASA’s winch system used to bring in the Orion test article into the well deck. (MC2 Carrel Regis/Navy)Navy divers assist NASA and the Anchorage in recovering a mock-up capsule designed to roughly simulate the size, shape, mass and center of gravity of the Orion crew module that will splash down in the Pacific following Exploration Mission-1 — planned for Dec. 2019. (PO1 Abe McNatt/Navy)Sailors assist NASA engineers in bringing the Orion test article to the Anchorage. (MC3 Natalie M. Byers/Navy)Sailors assist NASA engineers, with the help of Navy divers from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 3 and sailors from Special Boat Team 12. (MC3 Natalie M. Byers/Navy)Navy divers from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 3 attach an inflatable ring to NASA’s Orion test article. (MC3 Natalie M. Byers/Navy)Sailors in a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat assist divers in Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC) from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 3. (MC3 Natalie M. Byers/Navy)Seaman Marc Castillejo handles a line from NASA’s Orion test article aboard the Anchorage. (MC2 Carrel Regis/Navy)