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Today, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a huge team of engineers and technicians is working diligently around the clock to creating what is going to be a very long anticipated project. This team of scientists and technologists is working on completing the final stages of the Orion crew capsule, a capsule designed to take astronauts farther than any other manned space flight. The goal of the Orion capsule is to take astronauts beyond a low Earth orbit and into deep space. This capsule will take its crew to distant asteroids and eventually, on the first manned flight to Mars.

Fabrication of the Orion capsule is currently in its final stages and will be finished and ready for its inaugural test flight by December of this year. In this unmanned test flight, dubbed Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), the capsule will be thrust into space with the aid of the ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket in Cape Canaveral, Florida. From there, Orion will perform its planned two-orbit flight, that will take it farther into space than any human space flight vehicle since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. Some of the goals of EFT-1 are to finalize the design of the Orion capsule, reduce technical risk, and to increase efficiencies of the capsule. Critically important flight test data collected from this test flight will ensure Orions ability to withstand a scorching re entry heat of over 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, while traveling at speeds of over 20,000 miles per hour.

The crew has overcome a number of obstacles during the construction of the Orion capsule, one of the obvious issues being re entry. Orion will be traveling distances rivaled only by a few spacecraft in history, and will need to withstand re entry temperatures higher than any space flight since astronauts returned from the moon. Because of this, the capsule will need to be fitted with a shell to allow the crew to return to earth unharmed, which is why the KSC has used the same back shell panels for Orion as were used to protect the bottom of the space shuttle from the enormous amount of friction caused by reentry into the atmosphere. Another issue that engineers working on the Orion capsule have encountered is the possibility of a breach in the back shell panels by the plethora of micrometeoroids that will make contact with the capsule during its flight. To test the effects of these infinitesimally small celestial bodies, two one-inch holes have been drilled into the tiles on Orion's shell to simulate orbital debris damage. From these holes, sensors can detect how high temperatures actually climb after a shell breach.

I believe that this issue is one that greatly affects not only our society as a whole, but the entire human race. If Galileo himself were here today,



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