The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released a video Friday of the Orion spacecraft re-entering the Earth's atmosphere at 20,000 miles per hour (mph). The 10-minute video gives a glimpse of the extreme conditions the spacecraft tolerates when returning from a space mission.
Orion is NASA's multi-purpose crew vehicle (MPCV) that can carry up to four crew and supplies to low Earth orbit destinations such as the International Space Station (ISS). NASA is also hoping that one day Orion will facilitate human exploration of asteroids, as well as Mars.
The video was recorded during a test flight on Dec. 5 by an on-board camera. The video footage shows the plasma, which the Orion's heat shield created, while entering the Earth's atmosphere. The scene changed colors rapidly from white to yellow to lavender to magenta when the temperature increased to about 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
"As Orion emerges safely on the other side of its trial by fire, the camera continues to record the deployment of the series of parachutes that slowed it to a safe 20 mph for landing and the final splash as Orion touched down on Earth," stated NASA.
The video shows that the spacecraft orbited the Earth twice before splashing in the Pacific Ocean. Orion's latest flight traveled 3,600 miles over the earth that lasted about 4.5 hours. The spacecraft traveled farther than any previous spacecraft that has been built for humans in the last few decades. NASA revealed that Orion also experienced the hottest temperatures in this mission.
Orion's latest flight was also meant to test the spacecraft's high-speed re-entry systems like heat shield, avionics, parachutes and altitude control, which will enable on-board astronauts to return safely to the Earth.
A team that consisted members from NASA, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy retrieved the spacecraft from the Pacific Ocean and it was carried to the shore on U.S. Navy's USS Anchorage. The spacecraft was then loaded on a truck and taken to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA reveals that over 3 million viewers watched the launch on the agency's live stream of the test flight.
Check out Orion's re-entry video below.