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NASA Invites Public to ‘Hangout’ During Orion Parachute Test

2013-07-20 18:38:00

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The world is going to be able to watch from computers and mobile devices as NASA performs a major test next week at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground.

NASA plans to host a Google+ Hangout Wednesday morning during a parachute drop test for its Orion space capsule.

“It is something we have never been able to offer before, and I think it is pretty darn neat,” said Chuck Wullenjohn, spokesman for YPG. “It gives everybody the opportunity to participate in this event.”

The live video will be broadcast from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday as an Orion test capsule is dropped from a plane at 35,000 feet to evaluate its parachutes. The Hangout also will be carried live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

During the event, participants will see one of Orion’s most difficult parachute tests to date and hear from NASA and Army team members involved. As part of the test, engineers will simulate a failure of one of the spacecraft’s three main parachutes.

“There will also be interviews with engineers, people from YPG. It should be real interesting stuff,” Wullenjohn said.

NASA social media followers may submit questions on Google+ or Twitter in advance and during the event using the hashtag #askOrion. Before the Hangout begins, NASA will open a thread on its Facebook page where questions may be posted.

The drop test will take place over one of the proving ground’s expansive parachute drop zones. It is one in a series of parachute tests going back many years that NASA has conducted at the proving ground.

According to NASA, this spacecraft will fly on Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), which was previously known as Orion Flight Test 1, and is set to launch in September 2014 from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The EFT-1 flight will take Orion to an altitude of more than 3,600 miles, more than 15 times farther away from Earth than the International Space Station. The capsule will return home at a speed of 25,000 mph.

As Orion re-enters the atmosphere, it will endure temperatures up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, higher than any human spacecraft since astronauts returned from the moon.

The parachutes need to be tested to ensure they can slow the capsule for a safe landing in the Pacific Ocean. This mission, according to NASA, is designed to simulate re-entry conditions the capsule will experience as it returns to Earth from deep space missions.

Orion is NASA’s next-generation spacecraft designed to take humans to an asteroid and eventually Mars, and is the most advanced spacecraft ever built.