CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (CBS4)– The launch of Orion is not just a big deal for future exploration, it also marks the end of an era.

Orion is the test flight for a capsule that could take man back to the moon or even as far away as Mars.

NASA Administrator Dan Mulville has seen space craft launches before but this time he says it’s different.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)


“I was here for the last shuttle launch which was quite an emotional experience, especially for the people at Kennedy to have it come to an end,” said Mulville.

Mulville was a chief engineer for NASA and then held the position of acting NASA Administrator.

“I came right before the Challenger incident and left right before Columbia,” said Mulville.

He believes with Orion, NASA has a future that may involve deep space and the potential to travel to Mars.

“Going beyond lower Earth orbit is a challenge and I think that is really the objective of the Orion to create a system that will let NASA take the next step,” said Mulville. “It’s a big day for NASA and I think great expectations and what’s the next step in the process.”

The Orion’s heat shield was made by the people at Lockheed Martin in Littleton, and United Launch Alliance in Centennial built the rocket that will lift it into space. The whole event will be able to be seen courtesy of flight cameras built buy Ball Aerospace in Broomfield.

PHOTO GALLERY: CBS4 Covers Orion Spacecraft Launch

The Colorado-built rocket will launch Orion into space in 17 minutes. The orbit will be 15 times further than the International Space Station, traveling 3,600 miles above Earth.

(credit: CBS/NASA)

(credit: CBS/NASA)

Thursday’s flight is a test run, the first on its journey to Mars.

CBS4 will report live from Cape Canaveral beginning Wednesday. Watch the launch live on CBS4 Morning News on Thursday at 5 a.m.

LINKS: NASA-Orion | Lockheed Martin-Orion

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