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From space to splashdown, you can now watch Orion's return to Earth firsthand

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NASA took the first major step in re-establishing its crewed space program two weeks ago when the Orion spacecraft made its initial test flight. Today, the space agency released this 10-minute video that shows the craft's reentry from the moment it began to burn through the Earth's atmosphere to its eventual splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Along the way, the video shows a number of things happening. First, the craft encounters friction from the atmosphere as it descends at 20,000 mph, creating a plasma trail of ionized gas behind it:

Orion 1
Orion 2
Orion 3

Once Orion's reaction control system gets the ship on the correct path toward its landing target, the various parachutes begin to deploy. Before that, though, the forward bay cover is jettisoned:

Orion 4

Then comes the the first set of parachutes:

Orion 5

Those are then cut away before the main parachutes deploy:

Orion 6
Orion 7

From there, it's a smooth three-minute ride at about 20 miles per hour before splashdown:

Orion 8

There's still a long wait until Orion will carry actual humans into space — that's not supposed to happen until sometime around 2021. Even the next test flight is still two years away. So until then all we have is have this beautiful astronaut's-eye-video to watch over and over.