The constellation of Orion (The Hunter) is one of the most recognisable collections of stars in the night sky. We have noted Orion’s prominent stars for tens of thousands of years at least, and likely far longer. Chinese astronomers called it 参宿 or Shēn, literally “three stars”, for its three bright dots (which form the Hunter’s belt). The ancient Egyptians regarded it as the gods Sah and Sopdet, manifestations of Osiris and Isis, respectively, whereas Greek astronomers saw a brave hunter — the eponymous Orion — with his sword above his head, ready to strike.
When it comes to a spacecraft enduring the extremely hot and fast journey from deep space back to Earth, NASA’s Orion can withstand the heat. Engineers developing Orion’s thermal protection system have been improving the spacecraft’s heat shield design and manufacturing process since the vehicle successfully traveled to space for the first time last year. They are now enhancing the overall system in advance of the spacecraft’s next mission – a flight that will put Orion through the harshest set of conditions yet.