Quietly, NASA keeps advancing in their manned deep space exploration: you're looking at Orion—the first spaceship that hopefully will leave Earth and the Moon behind en route to Mars and other places in the solar system—powering up for the first time ever. It feels like a restart of Humanity's journey to the stars after the Apollo program shut down.
According to NASA, it's a "major milestone in the final year of preparations for flight."
Orion's avionics system was installed on the crew module and powered up for a series of systems tests at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week. Preliminary data indicate Orion's vehicle management computer, as well as its innovative power and data distribution system—which use state-of-the-art networking capabilities—performed as expected.
The launch will be in the fall of 2014. The test mission—EFT-1—will take this ship "15 times farther than the International Space Station" for two orbits, returning to Earth at 20,000 miles per hour. This mission will have no crew. Like the Orion program manager Mark Geyer says, "it's been an exciting ride so far, but we're really getting to the good part now."
In the words of NASA's deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development Dan Dumbacher:
Orion will take humans farther than we've ever been before, and in just about a year we're going to send the Orion test vehicle into space. The work we're doing now, the momentum we're building, is going to carry us on our first trip to an asteroid and eventually to Mars. No other vehicle currently being built can do that, but Orion will, and EFT-1 is the first step.
It's not a the Enterprise, but who cares. One small step and all that. I'll take whatever you can give us, NASA. Godspeed!