Astrophysicist looks beyond test flight to asteroids and Mars December 9, 2014 | Editor’s Pick PopularBy Alvin Powell, Harvard Staff Writer
On Friday, NASA successfully launched its next-generation spaceship farther than any astronaut has flown since the Apollo program of the 1960s. Though the Orion was unmanned during the test flight, which took it 15 times higher than the Space Station orbits, it is designed to eventually carry a human crew on missions to the moon, to near-Earth asteroids, and even to Mars.
Jonathan McDowell, a scientist with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, works on the Chandra X-ray Observatory and also publishes Jonathan’s Space Report, a Web newsletter that focuses on launches of all kinds, manned and unmanned. He answered questions from the Gazette on the test flight, the goals of the Orion effort, and the rationale behind mounting a mission to a near-Earth asteroid.