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The Orion test spacecraft launching on a test of its abort system. Photo: NASA

NASA successfully tested the escape system for the Orion crew capsule Tuesday that would be used to pull a crew of astronauts away from a failing rocket in the moments after launch.

Why it matters: This uncrewed test marked an important step toward NASA's goal of landing astronauts back on the surface of the Moon as part of its Artemis program by 2024.

NASA hopes to use its Orion capsule and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to make that mission a reality. The first test flight for the integrated system is expected in 2020, though some reports suggest it will likely be delayed.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Details: The test took about 3 minutes, with a test version of Orion flying to an altitude of about 6 miles attached to a modified Peacekeeper missile, according to NASA.

  • The abort was then triggered, and Orion was pulled away from the rocket by its abort motor.
  • From there, the abort system's attitude control motor "flipped the capsule end-over-end to properly orient it, and then the jettison motor fired, releasing the crew module for splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean," NASA said in a statement.
  • During a typical abort, Orion would deploy parachutes to slow its speed before splashdown, but in this case, NASA allowed the test article to crash into the ocean instead.
  • NASA will now spend time analyzing the data gathered during the test and collecting the flight recorders jettisoned by Orion on its way back to Earth.

Between the lines: While the test appears to have been a success, it's also been a long time coming. The Orion and SLS programs have experienced years of delays due to budget and technical issues.

Go deeper

32 mins ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: It means former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

2 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.