After being delayed by a day, the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with NASA’s Orion spacecraft successfully launched from the US Air Force’s space complex at Cape Canaveral. The powerful rocket system helped the unmanned spacecraft conduct its maiden voyage which included traveling 3,600 miles (5,800 kilometers) from Earth before Orion’s 4.5 hour journey ended with a splashdown and successful recovery in the Pacific Ocean. This inaugural test was used to validate the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle’s (MPCV) all important heat shield and some of the avionics for a spacecraft that NASA hopes will one day allow manned missions to Mars, asteroids and possibly deeper into space.
The Orion reference has deep mythological meaning, with the constellation of the same name represented by the Greek hunter. Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius drew the Orion constellation in Uranographia, his celestial catalog back in the 1600s.