Fans of humankind’s best chance at a manned mission to Mars flocked to the #SpotOrion hashtag on Twitter early Wednesday morning, following the capsule’s trip from its base at Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake, Texas to the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston. Parked happily on the back of a big rig truck, Orion chugged about 25 miles north on Interstate 45, puzzling commuters, while a NASA follow vehicle documented the whole thing on social media. Sure, we didn’t get any pure moments of childlike glee like the extremely southern narrator watching SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket pass by near the Kennedy Space Center back in April, but the Orion caravan got some people pretty excited all the same. Turns out even in Houston a 30-foot wide spacecraft on a semi truck isn’t an everyday occurrence.
The best angles were reserved for insiders, though — the craft’s own Twitter account snapped the most epic shot on the hashtag, featuring the capsule straddling several lanes with downtown Houston’s skyline in the background.
For a sense of scale, here’s Orion in the middle of a normal SUV and a sedan. According to Google Maps, the whole trip is supposed to take about 35 minutes, but we’re willing to bet a 22,000-pound spacecraft wasn’t exactly speeding (on land at least).
The craft easily cleared bridges, but on camera it looks like it was a close call.
NASA wants to show off what they’ve been doing to further interplanetary travel, and on the heels of releasing three awesome new high-res Mission to Mars posters, they’re displaying the capsule mockup at this weekend’s Comicpalooza in Houston.
Orion’s now parked inside the convention center, where fans will have an opportunity to see the craft up close and take pictures (when it’s not on the back of a moving truck).
It’s worth noting that this isn’t the final Orion capsule, but the PORT Mockup used by NASA as a training tool to prepare astronauts on methods for quickly exiting the vehicle after a water landing. Still, it looks cool all the same — here’s NASA astronaut Mike Fincke narrating a water landing training exercise.