Spectacular Photos: NASA Practices Orion Space Capsule Recovery at Sea

Sunset Rendezvous

Tony Gray/NASA

During a few days on the Pacific Ocean's open waters, NASA tested recovery procedures for its Orion capsule, which is meant to someday carry humans to the moon — and even on to Mars. The procedure, called Underway Recovery Test-7 (URT-7), was meant to check the systems that will help agency staff bring home the capsule and its crewmembers. During the test, NASA worked with the U.S. Navy and its ship the USS John P. Murtha, which is visible on the left in this image taken on Nov. 1, 2018.

A Dazzling Sunset

Kenny Allen/NASA

As the sun sets on the horizon, NASA's Recovery Team and the U.S. Navy practice recovering a test version of the Orion space capsule as part of Underway Recovery Test-7 (URT-7) in the Pacific Ocean on Nov. 1, 2018.


Tony Gray/NASA

Earlier in the maneuvers, on Oct. 30, the NASA team watched an Orion test capsule being collected by the USS John P. Murtha.

Eyes in the Water

Kim Shiflett/NASA

During the tests, NASA had U.S. Navy divers standing by, prepared to offer an at-sea perspective on the Orion capsule and its performance.

At Sea

Kim Shiflett/NASA

U.S. Navy divers caught a ride on a small boat being lowered from the main body of the USS John P. Murtha. The divers were heading out to gather data about the test ocean landing of an Orion capsule.

Inspection Time

Kim Shiflett/NASA

Travis Methany, who works for Jacobs, an aerospace-technology contracting company that works with NASA, looks over the test Orion capsule before it is placed in the well deck of the USS John P. Murtha.

Check the Books

Kim Shiflett/NASA

For Underway Recovery Test-7 (URT-7), Tracy Parks, an expert with the Jacobs contracting group, acted as the recovery operations integrator. Here, she reviews the process on the deck of the USS John B. Murtha, with a test Orion capsule in the background.

Tug of War

Kim Shiflett/NASA

U.S. Navy personnel take care of the tending lines, which are used to pull the Orion capsule into the ship's well deck, with NASA recovery experts looking on.


Kim Shiflett/NASA

It may look like an alien landing capsule, but it isn't — it's just the Orion test capsule being pulled into the USS John P. Murtha's well deck after dark on Nov. 1.


Kim Shiflett/NASA

Divers with the U.S. Navy prepared their boat for another excursion on the Pacific Ocean during the Orion test process.

Night Sail

Kim Shiflett/NASA

During a night test of the Orion capsule-recovery process, U.S. Navy divers prepare to row out of the USS John P. Murtha's well deck.

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Meghan Bartels
Senior Writer

Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.