NASA is making plans to send humans to Mars. To do that, they need a very special spacecraft that can handle the harsh conditions of the trip and protect everything on board. This craft is Orion. A flight test of Orion WITHOUT humans is planned for early December 2014.

NASA released a video today describing the purpose and conditions of the upcoming test flight:

Very exciting! And those Delta IV rockets are very powerful!

Would you like to see this test launch in person? Apply to attend the Orion NASAsocial event. If you follow NASA's various accounts on social media, you are eligible. Once you apply, the social media team at NASA goes through the applicants and chooses 150 individuals to join them for two days of VIP access to astronauts, scientists and administrators who talk about Orion and the space program. You have to pay for your travel and accommodations for this opportunity, but it is well worth it!

According to the NASAsocial website:

  • NASA Social participants will have the opportunity to:
  • View the launch of the Delta IV heavy rocket carrying our Orion spacecraft
  • Hear first-hand accounts of the mission and research goals from NASA engineering teams from around the agency and other organizations.
  • Get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (Note: All sites on KSC / CCAFS are subject to closure due to mission or operation requirements), including potential opportunities to:

    • Get an inside look of the Vehicle Assembly Building
    • Tour Orion’s production facility
    • Go inside the Launch Control Center

  • Meet and interact with astronaut(s) and representatives from NASA and other organizations.
  • Meet fellow space enthusiasts who are active on social media
  • Meet members of NASA's social media team

Registration for the NASA Social opens at 2 p.m. EDT on Monday, Oct. 6, and closes at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 19. Participants will be selected from online registrations.

NASAsocials are great fun!

If you want to be a part of the excitement but aren't able to apply for and attend the NASA social, you may send your name on Orion on its Journey to Mars:

NASA is inviting the public to send their names on a microchip to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, including Mars.

Your name will begin its journey on a dime-sized microchip when the agency's Orion spacecraft launches Dec. 4 on its first flight, designated Exploration Flight Test-1. After a 4.5-hour, two-orbit mission around Earth to test Orion's systems, the spacecraft will travel back through the atmosphere at speeds approaching 20,000 mph and temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

But the journey for your name doesn't end there. After returning to Earth, the names will fly on future NASA exploration flights and missions to Mars. With each flight, selected individuals will accrue more miles as members of a global space-faring society.

"NASA is pushing the boundaries of exploration and working hard to send people to Mars in the future," said Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager. "When we set foot on the Red Planet, we'll be exploring for all of humanity. Flying these names will enable people to be part of our journey."

The deadline for receiving a personal "boarding pass" on Orion's test flight closes Friday, Oct. 31. The public will have an opportunity to keep submitting names beyond Oct. 31 to be included on future test flights and future NASA missions to Mars.

To submit your name to fly on Orion's flight test, visit:

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #JourneyToMars.

There is room for everyone on this trip, in some form or another, so why not be part of it?