I got up early yesterday and again today to watch the launch of NASA’s newest spacecraft, Orion. This flight, Experimental Flight Test 1 (EFT1), is, as its name suggests, a flight test to check out critical Orion systems before we send it further away with people on board.
I cheered when it successfully launched this morning and did not get any writing done because I was too intrigued with the Orion TV feed.
Here were the thoughts I had while watching:
– I’m conditioned to watch Space Shuttle launches and know the event timing, and it was odd for me to watch a launch with different timing and steps. Shouldn’t the side rockets fall off after two minutes? Apparently, no.
– I saw some insulation popcorning off the Delta IV in the rocket cam video feed, but I didn’t have to worry about anything hitting Orion since it’s on top of the stack. That’s a big benefit to the top of the stack design.
– I was furious with the idiots who kept tweeting Orion had blown up. Can I tunnel through the internet and terminate their connections? Please?
– I cheered when we started getting good telemetry off Orion via its own communication system and the Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRSs).
– I loved the views of Earth from the Orion cameras.
– I was happy when I saw the Orion animation showing Orion was passing the Texas Gulf Coast. Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought to use my screen capture program to catch it. And it was raining here at the time, so there was no point in going out to wave.
– Once Orion was up in its elliptical orbit, the view of the Earth was a tri-color Earth much like my tri-color Moon from my lunar eclipse photos: white limb, blue middle, and black in shadow. I need to figure out if that’s just an effect of the camera’s dynamic range because if not I want to capture the tri-color effect in the story I’m currently writing.
– Orion did, as expected, experience a communication blackout when the reentry plasma got too thick.
– The video of the landing and splashdown – from the Ikhana drone and Orion itself – were awesome. I loved the infrared point of the approaching Orion and getting to see all the parachutes deploy.
– It was great that NASA TV and ustream broadcast the entire mission, and I enjoyed sharing the event with the twitter community. I don’t tweet often, but this event seemed made for it.
I spent the whole morning watching the flight. What an awesome day!
Congratulations to the NASA and Lockheed Martin Orion teams on a flawless flight! I am such a NASA fangirl! Luckily for me, I work for a NASA contractor and occasionally get to do work for Orion. But today I just got to be a fan. 🙂
 Ground track picture from NASA Flickr.
 Tri-color Earth picture screen shot from ustream NASA TV feed.