SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) embarked members of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), United Space Alliance, and the Human Space Flight Support Office (HSFS) from NASA's Kennedy Space Center for an informational tour, Feb. 27.
The group visited the ship to gain background information for NASA's Constellation program and to coordinate Department of Defense support for end of mission and recovery support if NASA chooses a water landing for the Orion crew capsule it is designing. The Orion project is part of the U.S. Space Exploration Policy that is creating a new generation of spacecraft for human exploration.
NASA is in the very early planning process for determining how to recover the Orion spacecraft and its astronaut crew members after the completion of a mission. NASA is evaluating whether it will land the capsule on land or in water as the primary landing mode. During this visit, NASA was assessing how the capsule might be recovered if the spacecraft landed in the water.
"NASA would like [the option of] having the Navy recover the new vehicle if they have a vessel available for the recovery," said Cmdr. Andy Quiett, one of the visitors from HSFS. "The Navy can provide NASA its world class support and expertise."
The group, who was researching options for methods of recovery and was interested in the well deck and crane capabilities of the San Antonio class of amphibious transport docks, Wasp class of amphibious assault ships, and Harpers Ferry class of landing ship docks, USS New Orleans (LPD 18) and USS Boxer (LHD 4) in addition to Pearl Harbor.
"I had no idea that our ship could be a part of a recovery for the [nation's next generation spacecraft]," exclaimed Seaman Analuk Singphiphat, a Sailor aboard Pearl Harbor. "That would be a really great experience for future Pearl Harbor Sailors."
In the event a water landing is chosen, NASA is considering landing the Orion capsule off the coast of San Diego. The first crewed launch of the Orion module atop an Ares I rocket is targeted for 2015. The Constellation program's goals are to maintain American presence in low Earth orbit, return to the moon and establish a lunar outpost, and explore Mars and further in the 21st century.
For more information about NASA's Constellation program, visit: www.nasa.gov/constellation .
For more news from Pear Harbor, visit www.navy.mil/local/lsd52/.