NASA's Orion spacecraft is back on dry land following its offloading from the USS Anchorage late Monday night. At Naval Base San Diego, the Anchorage lowered its well deck gate into the water, allowing for a gangplank to be laid down between the dock and ship. Sitting in a specialized recovery cradle, Orion was towed off the Anchorage by a frontloader. A group of NASA and U.S. Navy officials, including NASA Recovery Director Jeremy Graeber, USS Anchorage Commanding Officer Michael McKenna and Astronaut Sunita Williams, were on hand to speak with assembled media.
When asked how Orion recovery procedures might change for crewed flights, Jeremy Graeber said helicopters might be used to ferry astronauts from the recovery vessel back to shore. Suni Williams, a veteran astronaut who most recently commanded the International Space Station during Expedition 33 in 2012, said she was hopeful that she could fly aboard Orion one day—if time allowed. Crewed Orion flights aren't scheduled to begin until 2021. Orion will now be trucked across the United States to Kennedy Space Center, where its journey into space began on Dec. 5. NASA officials said they expect to have the spacecraft back in Florida by Christmas.
Kevin Baird, a multimedia developer, photographer and videographer with an interest in all things space, was on hand at Naval Base San Diego to photograph Orion's return. Some of his work is featured below.
Orion offloading timelapse NASA's Orion spacecraft was offloaded from the USS Anchorage at Naval Base San Diego on Dec. 8, 2015.