Orion capsule completes abort test successfully

The Orion capsule, which will bring astronauts around the moon, passed a critical test Tuesday morning.

So what does this big moment mean for the space race at large? Pressure.

The capsule was on a missile, not a rocket, for this test, and it comes as President Donald Trump is telling NASA to get to the moon and stay there.  Now, rival companies are neck-and-neck to get man to space.

Lockheed Martin’s Orion capsule is built for manned trips to the moon. The successful abort test takes us a step closer to the moon. Next summer, Orion will do an unmanned orbit around the moon. In 2022, astronauts will do a moon fly-by. Landing on the moon is tentatively set for 2028.

The moon is far -- about 240,000 miles (386,243 km) away, but there’s something closer that astronauts want to get to first: the International Space Station.

Two manned missions to the ISS are planned and could happen this year. That’s where the space race is the hottest. The space companies that have capsules for astronauts have to complete the same abort test, a requirement from NASA -- if there’s going to be people on board, they have got to be able to escape a possible explosion.

SpaceX has its Dragon Crew Capsule. Boeing has Starliner. Both want to conduct abort tests this summer.

Dr. Eric Perlman is a professor of physics and aerospace at Florida Tech, and he follows all the companies in the industry. Right now, it's like following major league sports teams.

“There are a lot of new opportunities, it is a space Renaissance, and it’s a new kind of space renaissance that’s something that we’ve never seen before.”

We asked Dr. Perlman about time-lines, managing expectations.

“I believe we will see men and women on the Moon and on Mars in our lifetime, I do not know if we will go beyond that in the next 20 years, the problem is, the further you go, the more difficult it is...because going to Mars is a multi-year proposition, the return trip would take approximately three years,” Perlman said.

If all of these space destinations confuse you, it might help to remember this: The order of the missions: Station; Moon; Mars.