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With eye on moon, NASA to test spacecraft parachute system in Yuma

(Facebook Photo/NASA's Orion Spacecraft)

PHOENIX — NASA will test the parachute system of its Orion spacecraft at the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Yuma on Wednesday morning.

The testing will focus on guaranteeing a safe landing for astronauts returning to Earth at speeds over 25,000 mph.

Orion is expected to send astronauts to the moon in the coming years — for the first time since 1972.

“We expect to send people further into space than ever before with Orion,” NASA’s Mark Kirasich told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday

You can watch a livestream of the testing on the NASA TV YouTube channel starting at 7:15 a.m.

“There will be a simulated version of Orion that is a capsule, which we made smaller so it could fit into an aircraft,” Kirasich said.

The simulator will be loaded onto a C-17 aircraft then flown nearly 6 miles high.

The capsule will then dropped from the aircraft to see how well the system of 11 parachutes, cannon-like mortars and pyrotechnic devices work in sequence to slow the capsule’s descent for a safe landing on Earth.

“The parachutes are intended to slow the spacecraft down as we return to earth starting at 300 mph down to about 20 mph for a nice soft landing,” Kirasich said.

The next planned event with Orion will be testing the abort system, which is expected to occur in April 2019.

“We are really excited about this mission sending people back to the moon,” Kirasich said.

“We know this will excite people back on Earth and encourage them to do great things and get involved in science and engineering — knowing this is just a few years away.”

Editor’s note: The chutes successfully deployed and the craft landed safely.

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