Editor's note: Though NASA's Orion test mission was unmanned, the crews aboard the two Navy ships and other vessels now tasked with recovering it from the ocean do face some risk. Flight recovery director Jeremy Graeber said before the launch that, "Nominally, the vehicle coming down should not pose any threats to the recovery forces, but it's a test flight, so there are systems that we are not 100 percent sure we know what position they're in once we're splashed down." - Tricia
Editor's note: Re-ignition of Delta IV rocket should push Orion up out of low-Earth orbit. It will reach 3,600 miles altitude, further than any person-rated capsule since the final Apollo 17 moon flight in December 1972. - Sean
Editor's note: The Orion space capsule, designed for NASA by Lockheed Martin, is planned to take astronauts deeper into space than ever before. Today’s test launch is unmanned, and crewed missions aren't expected until at least 2021. - Aaron
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the United States government agency that is responsible for the civilian space program as well as for aeronautics and aerospace research.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.
Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Space Launch System and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches.
NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate's Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.