The Orion capsule, slated to carry crew to the International Space Station and beyond, while riding atop the under-development Space Launch System (SLS) has reached an important milestone.

Florida Today is reporting that the Orion capsule successfully completed a drop test that simulates a main parachute failure. This was accomplished from 35,000 feet, about the height a commercial airliner flies, and it made a “relatively soft landing.”

Chris Johnson, project manager for the Orion capsule parachute assembly system at the Johnson Space Center, said that this test is very similar to what the Orion capsule will look like coming back during, “Exploration Flight Test-1’s Earth entry next year.”

Anyone who has seen the movie Apollo 13 will recall how critical the parachutes are during the landing phase of a mission. Remember the scene where Gary Sinise is trading off power systems and the engineer wants him to forego the parachutes? Sinise says that the astronauts, then, would hit the water at 300 mph. Or the scene where the capsule is coming out of the clouds after the five minute blackout, and, all of the sudden, those beautiful orange and white parachutes loft down from the sky and everyone in Mission Control goes wild? Yeah, that’s what this test was about on the Orion capsule. To ensure that those parachutes really DO deploy in time, and that the crew arrives home safely, just like in the movies.

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