CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - Hundreds of people watched as NASA successfully proved the Orion capsule's launch abort system can outrun a rocket and pull astronauts to safety if there is an emergency during lift-off.
The practice test for the launch abort system is another milestone bringing astronauts one step closer to going back to the moon and Mars in 2024.
"It was awesome to see it, I've been waiting a long time for this to go off and it went off great," said Bruce Owens. He made the 12 hour drive down from Virginia to watch it with his daughter and her boyfriend.
Owens said he actually works as an area flight mechanic engineer for NASA. He said for the last 10 years he has been working towards this moment.
"The trajectory you saw this morning, we actually do a lot of the predictions to make sure it goes where it's supposed to go."
"We actually ignite the abort motor which is about 400,000 lbs of thrust," said crew module manager Jenny Devolites. "Also ignites the attitude control motor that provides the steering you see. It rotates the vehicle around, re-orients it, puts the heat shield forward for descent."
NASA said the test took three minutes and 13 seconds.
Officials said the spacecraft traveled to an altitude of six miles when the launch abort system pulled away from the crew module. The module fell into the ocean at about 300 mph.
No one was on-board the spacecraft but when astronauts are inside there will be parachutes.
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"It was amazing, it was amazing. Not as loud as I thought it would be but it was great we got here just in time. It's just something the kids will never forget," said Molly Antosz.
Her family was on a vacation at Disney when they heard about the abort test and decided to come see it in person.
"We were like we have to be there. Our son is named Orion and we wanted them to see it."
Crews recovered twelve data recorders that were ejected as part of the test. They will now study them to see how well the launch abort system performed.