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NASA's Orion Comes to Mansfield, On Its Way to Plum Brook Research Facility... And the Moon

photo of Doug Wheelock
Astronaut Doug Wheelock will help test Orion after it's unloaded from the Super Guppy transport plane and taken to NASA's Glenn's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky.

NASA’s goal of having a manned flight back to the moon in 2024 took its next step towards reality over the weekend, as the Orion spacecraft arrived in Mansfield.

The Super Guppy – a special NASA cargo plane that looks like a flying, silver whale – brought the 25-ton Orion to Lahm Airport from Florida. It will be taken this week to NASA's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky for four months of testing in extreme temperatures, as well as for electromagnetic interference.

Astronaut Doug Wheelock – who has spent time on the International Space Station and also flown on the Space Shuttle -- will be participating in the testing.

“The excitement now – above and beyond what we did in Apollo – is now we’re going to the moon, and we’re going there to stay. We’re actually going to do scientific research on the surface of the moon.”

NASA hopes to establish an outpost on the moon by 2028. But first, the Orion will be launched on an unmanned flight next year. A mission slated for 2024 will put a man -- and the first woman – on the moon.

Nancy Them and her 20-year-old son, Jackson, are from Mansfield. They’re excited that NASA will be landing people on the moon for the first time since 1972.

Nancy hopes “they’ll be able to… find more things up there [and] detect more things that could help us here on Earth.” Her son adds, “I think it would be really to go there again with today’s modern technology and really expand on what we found back in ’69. I’d love to be able to view it live since, obviously, I didn’t get a chance to do that.”

NASA hopes to use the Artemis missions to refine technology and gather data for an eventual mission to Mars.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.