PERKINS TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Orion has aced tests in Ohio en route to the moon.
The spaceship earned perfect grades and completed four months of tests in the world’s biggest thermal vacuum chamber, housed at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook Station in Perkins Township, near Sandusky. The dull gray, 48,000-pound ship endured vibrations, electromagnetic interference, heat up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and chills down to minus 250 in the chamber, about 120 feet tall and 100 feet across.
In November, a big cargo plane called the Super Guppy flew Orion from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center to Mansfield Rahm Airport. Then a flatbed truck hauled it to Plum Brook on a road widened and cleared of overhead lines and other obstacles.
Next Saturday, if weather permits, Orion will be trucked back to the airport and flown back to Kennedy. There it will be attached to a space launch system created with NASA Glenn’s help.
Orion is expected to launch next year without a crew and circle the moon in the first flight of the Artemis mission.
“Artemis ushers in a new era of space exploration,” Marla Perez-Davis, head of NASA Glenn, said during a celebration Saturday at Plum Brook.
The mission aims to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 and prepare an eventual launch from there to Mars.
At Saturday’s event, U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur said, “We celebrate the vision and genius and adventure of the American spirit.” The Toledo Democrat also celebrated NASA Glenn, which helps research, design and test equipment and technology for air and space.