What do you do when you need to haul several tons of spacecraft 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) across the US? Call in the biggest and most cavernous plane you can find, obviously.
NASA’s immense ‘Super Guppy’ plane was deployed to ferry the new Orion craft from the Kennedy Space Station in Florida to its testing site in Ohio on Sunday. According to NASA, the spacecraft can carry four to six crew and will “take astronauts farther than they have ever gone.”
Not your ordinary big fish story: NASA’s Super Guppy delivers Orion spacecraft to Ohio for testing at Plum Brook Station in advance of Artemis I mission. pic.twitter.com/dPCGBfo5GI
— Orion Spacecraft (@NASA_Orion) November 25, 2019
Despite the cold conditions, a huge crowd gathered to welcome Super Guppy and its cargo at Mansfield Lahm Airport on Sunday. The plane boasts a cargo area 25 feet in diameter and 111 feet long.
The enormous planes were first developed back in the 1960s, but the NASA aircraft is the last one still flying – and had to be modified before it could carry Orion.
— Put on Your Jackets (@Whittness) November 24, 2019
— Katie Shaw (@katiejo_run) November 25, 2019
“Orion and the service module will be the heaviest payload ever transported in the Super Guppy,” said John Bakalyar, the Super Guppy program manager in aircraft operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, during preparations for the airlift.
Orion is a key part of the Artemis program which aims to send astronauts to the Moon by 2024. The spacecraft will transport crew members between Earth and a ‘Gateway’ spaceship in lunar orbit that will take the team down to the surface of the Moon. NASA is also planning for Orion to form part of other deep space missions, including journeying to Mars.
The spacecraft will undergo rigorous environmental testing at the Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio before it can be certified for flight. After its Ohio stint, the craft will head back to Florida to be fitted with its final panels and solar arrays.
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