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Orion Launches Into History

Orion discards its Launch Abort System

Air Date: 12/09/2014
Run Time: 28:50

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  • Jason Davis, Journalist and Digital Editor, The Planetary Society
  • Ellen Stofan, Chief Scientist, NASA
  • Scott Thurston, Vehicle Integration and Launch Operations Manager, NASA Kennedy Space Center

Topics: Mars 2020, New Horizons, Pluto, Planetary Society Projects, Orion, Charon, mission status, Planetary Radio, Planetary Society People, Mars, Bill Nye

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NASA’s Orion spacecraft has taken its first step toward Mars and an asteroid mission. The Planetary Society’s Jason Davis was at the Kennedy Space Center for the December 5 mission. Bill Nye believes Orion will bring far-reaching benefits. Emily Lakdawalla has your guide to New Horizons, awake now for its climactic run at Pluto, and Bruce Betts phones home from Arizona State University, where he helped begin planning for the 2020 Mars rover’s main cameras.

Orion lifts off

Jason Davis / The Planetary Society

Orion lifts off
NASA's Orion spacecraft lifts off atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 37 on Friday, Dec. 5, 2015.

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Trivia Contest

This week's prize is a 200 point account with, valued at $200 US, for astronomical observation from instruments throughout the world.

This week's question:

What US Navy ship recovered the Orion capsule?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at no later than Tuesday, December 16, at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

What relatively bright star in our sky is Pioneer 10 headed for, and will reach the vicinity of in about 2 million years?


The answer will be revealed next week.

Question from the week before:

What are the TWO active region numbers assigned to the giant sunspot that was visible during the most recent partial solar eclipse. The second number was assigned when the region reappeared as the Sun rotated.


That big October sunspot was designated AR2192, and re-designated AR2209 when it went around for a second time.


No trivia contest spoilers please!

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