NASA and the Navy Team up to Test Recovery of Astronauts

Mike O'Brien

For the first time in 40 years, the Navy and NASA joined forces this week to test how they will recover astronauts after they have splashed down in the ocean.

The crew of the USS Arlington and a team of Navy divers began practicing retrieving a mock-up of the Orion space capsule on Thursday at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.

The last time the Navy was used to recover astronauts was the final flight of the Apollo program in 1975.

Since then astronauts have been returning to Earth via the space shuttle, or via the Russian Soyuz rocket.

Now NASA is planning to use its Orion spacecraft, which is still under development, for deep space travel.

Cmdr. Darren Nelson, the Arlington’s commanding officer, said in a statement: "Arlington’s crew of sailors and Marines and I are thrilled to be a part of this.

"As the captain of a Navy warship, and for virtually every member of my crew, this opportunity to work with NASA is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

A test flight of the Orion capsule is planned for September 2014, when it is expected to fly 3,600 miles before returning to the Pacific Ocean.

Its first real trip is scheduled to be an unmanned mission in 2017, with a manned mission planned for 2021.

In the meantime, the Navy and NASA will be carrying out more recovery tests off the coast of California in January.