Posted: 3:50 p.m.
Wednesday at the Yuma Proving Ground, the NASA Orion Space Program tested parachutes that will carry a capsule safely back to Earth.
The capsule will be the most advanced spacecraft ever designed.
Parachutes touched down during a simulated landing using a mock capsule.
Starting at 35,000 feet in the sky, a C-17 plane released the aircraft.
Wednesday's operation was to test how the capsule would react if something were to go wrong.
"This test today is simulating failure, letting us evaluate what happens if one of the three mains were to, for some reason, break away early," said Stu McClungy, a NASA project engineer.
The price of each test is about $1 million. Engineers say it is money well spent.
"These parachutes have to work. We don't get any go arounds. This test sequence is setup to demonstrate that we've got a vehicle that's ready for astronauts to use in the future," McClungy said.
Miles and miles of open desert space provide the kind of ground that the NASA team needs to test equipment of this capacity.
"We come to Yuma because Yuma is the premiere parachute test range for the Army. They have ground cameras that we use, they have aircraft available, they've got people to coordinate the aircraft, they've got GPS resources," said Carol Evans, NASA test and operations manager, Monday during the loading of the capsule.
By the year 2021, the Orion Space Program hopes to carry astronauts to an asteroid and eventually to Mars.
"It's going to take Orion 3.600 feet above the Earth, which is further than any spacecraft built for a human has gone since the Apollo days. It's been a long time since we've been that far," said Brandi Dean, a part of NASA's public affairs team.
In September of 2014, the Orion Space Program will send an unmanned capsule into space.