USS Anchorage to retrieve space capsule - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

USS Anchorage to retrieve space capsule

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego-based USS Anchorage will retrieve from the Pacific Ocean a space capsule launched as part of a NASA test flight that could lead to deep-space travel, the Navy announced Tuesday.

The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship left Naval Base San Diego on Monday on its way to the area where the Orion space capsule is expected to come down, according to a statement from the Department of the Navy. 

The area was not pinpointed by the Navy. NASA is scheduled to launch the unmanned capsule on Thursday from Cape Canaveral in Florida to about 3,600 miles into the Earth's orbit. 

Though the capsule will be unmanned for the test flight, officials said the Orion could in theory carry people to deep space some day, provided its heat shields, avionics and other systems work as designed.

Once launched, the capsule is expected to take about four hours to orbit the Earth twice before it hits the Pacific Ocean and can be recovered. 

The exact timetable will depend on weather conditions and other variables.

NASA will provide real-time tracking of the capsule as it descends to help guide the Anchorage to the capsule's exact location in the ocean.

Once the capsule is in the water, Navy divers aboard small boats will maneuver alongside and rig tending lines to guide the capsule to the ship,

according to the Navy's statement.

It is going to take a very complex, highly integrated team of Navy divers, meteorologists and others to complete the mission, Navy Lt. Keith Tate,

operations officer, said in the statement.

The last time a NASA vehicle that could carry people traveled so far into space was in 1972 with the last of the agency's Apollo moon missions.

Since then, NASA has only launched craft designed to carry crew just a few hundred miles from Earth.

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