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Around The Fleet

Orion Recovery a Success

Highly integrated team of professionals recover crew module

After 42 years, NASA and the Navy are at it again. The Orion space capsule was recovered by Navy divers assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 11, Mobile Dive and Salvage Company 11-7 and the USS Anchorage. This is the first launch of this kind since the Apollo 17 mission more than four decades ago.

NASA plans its first unmanned Orion voyage to take place in 2017, and a manned expedition in 2021.

NASA operatives launched Orion into Earth's orbit and waited for it to splash down into the Pacific Ocean for recovery.

"They launched a rocket on the East Coast, it went up into outer space and orbited for about four hours and then it splashed down out here off the West Coast of the United States and we were here to recover it," said Navy Diver 1st Class Victor Tapia, Mobile Dive and Savage Company 11-7.

"We made our way over to the crew module, which is where the astronauts would be," said Tapia. "The first step was to make sure that it was safe for us to be able to approach. We used a gas analysis sampler, and after it was safe ... we sent in a camera man to jump in the water and get footage. Next step was to install the house collar. The horse collar went on well. Some modifications had to be made in the water, but once it was modified and cinched up it was good to go and that's when the ship came up alongside and gave us the tow line."

NASA crewmembers provided real-time tracking information of the capsule once it was launched. They were in constant communication with the Johnson Space Center in Houston to notify the ship of any capsule deviation. NASA crew members also guided the ship incrementally closer to the recovery point.

San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) used its amphibious capabilities to provide an at-sea recovery of the Orion Space capsule.

"This was a very complex and highly integrated team of divers, meteorologists, flight crews, well-deck personnel and the bridge watch standers on Anchorage," said Lt. Keith Tate, Anchorage operations officer. "All of which culminated with the historic capsule recovery."

"Being part of this recovery, and creating history feels ... it's hard to describe," said Tapia. "The closest I can come to describing it is Christmas morning, knowing that you're going to get to open your presents, but you gotta wait. We got our present when we got that capsule onboard and accomplished our mission without anyone getting hurt, it's one of the greatest feelings and I'm proud to be part of this."

Learn more about Navy divers.