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Home, Sweet Home: Orion Spacecraft Arrives Back at Kennedy Space Center

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA's experimental Orion spacecraft left Florida by rocket and returned by truck. The capsule arrived back at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday. It rocketed into orbit Dec. 5, traveling 3,600 miles into space on an unmanned test flight that proved to be a great success. NASA plans to use future models to help get astronauts to an asteroid and to Mars in coming decades. Orion parachuted into the Pacific. After coming ashore at San Diego, the spacecraft was hauled by truck across the country.

Engineers will now begin the lengthy process of inspecting the vessel and reviewing all the data collected by sensors. The capsule was struck by micrometeoroids, but that was anticipated. “The flight itself was such a great success, but that’s only the beginning of the story,” Orion Program Manager Mark Geyer said in a statement . “Now we get to dig in and really find out if our design performed like we thought it would.”

It will be 2018 before another Orion flies. This one will be reused in a launch abort test.

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— The Associated Press and NBC News staff