The launch of the Orion space capsule will mark the beginning of a new era in space exploration similar to the first Apollo launch and the first launch of the space shuttle, NASA officials predicted Wednesday.
The Orion, the spaceship NASA wants to use to fly humans to Mars, is poised to launch at 7:05 am (1205 GMT) Thursday from the Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s east coast.
“The team is ready,” said Mike Sarafin, lead flight director. “We haven’t had this feeling in a while – since the end of the shuttle programme.”
The weather is not expected to play a negative role. The forecast improved Wednesday to only a 30-per-cent chance of the weather causing the launch to be postponed. The temperature will be about 22 degrees Celsius and the only concern was a light wind blowing from the Atlantic and possible showers that the spacecraft would have to fly though.
Overall, the mood Wednesday at the Kennedy Space Center was upbeat.
“We are buttoned up and ready to go,” said Ron Fortson, director of mission management at United Launch Alliance, the company that built the rocket that will carry Orion into space.