Stunning Photos of NASA's Orion: From Launch to Splashdown

PHOTO: NASAs Orion spacecraft, atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket, lifts off on its first unmanned orbital test flight from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Dec. 5, 2014, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. PlayChris O'Meara/AP Photo
WATCH Lift Off: Orion's Perfect Space Mission Test Run

Orion's maiden voyage was picture perfect from the moment it launched from Florida this morning until it splashed down four and a half hours later in the Pacific Ocean.

Nicknamed "America's spacecraft," Orion blasted off on an unmanned test mission this morning from Cape Canaveral to the delight of NASA engineers, who had been forced to scrub the launch on Thursday after a trio of problems.

During its four-and-a-half hour journey, the space capsule passed a series of milestones, flying through the Van Allen radiation belts and even managing to send the first live video of the entire globe back to Earth since Apollo 17 in 1972.

PHOTO: NASAs Orion spacecraft, atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket, lifts off on its first unmanned orbital test flight from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Dec. 5, 2014, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Chris OMeara/AP Photo
NASA's Orion spacecraft, atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket, lifts off on its first unmanned orbital test flight from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Dec. 5, 2014, in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The spacecraft, which could one day ferry astronauts to Mars, orbited Earth twice at an altitude of 3,600 miles before splashing down 600 miles off the coast of California at 11:29 a.m. ET.

PHOTO: This photo provided by NASA-TV, shows the view from the Orion spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket as it climbs to orbit during the first test flight, Dec. 5, 2014. NASA-TV/AP Photo
This photo provided by NASA-TV, shows the view from the Orion spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket as it climbs to orbit during the first test flight, Dec. 5, 2014.

The capsule plunged toward Earth at a speed of 20,000 mph and reaching temperatures twice as hot as molten lava. Engineers at NASA and Lockheed Martin gathered data that will be analyzed over the next few days, according to NASA.

PHOTO: NASA tweeted this photo with this caption: Heres Earth as seen from #Orion during its flight out to a peak altitude of 3,600 miles away from the planet, Dec. 5. 2014.NASA/Twitter
NASA tweeted this photo with this caption: "Here's Earth as seen from #Orion during its flight out to a peak altitude of 3,600 miles away from the planet," Dec. 5. 2014.

It appeared Orion's re-entry couldn't have been more perfect. A system of 11 parachutes deployed to help slow the capsule down to just 20 mph when it hit the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

The capsule will be recovered by the U.S. Navy and will be towed back to land by either the USS Anchorage or the USNS Salvor, according to NASA.

PHOTO: NASA tweeted this photo with this caption: Good separation from service module & second stage! #Orions getting ready to return to Earth, Dec. 5, 2014.NASA/Twitter
NASA tweeted this photo with this caption: "Good separation from service module & second stage! #Orion's getting ready to return to Earth," Dec. 5, 2014.

Orion had an impressive journey today, traveling 60,000 miles and venturing farther into space than any ship for humans has traveled in more than four decades.

PHOTO: Orion is seen as it coasts back to Earth.NASA
Orion is seen as it coasts back to Earth.

The next step for Orion will be another launch to circle the Moon in 2018, then a manned mission to the Moon in 2020.

PHOTO: In this frame grab from NASA-TV, the Orion capsule floats after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, Dec. 5, 2014.NASA/AP Photo
In this frame grab from NASA-TV, the Orion capsule floats after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, Dec. 5, 2014.

The capsule, which has a conical shape just like its Moon-shot era predecessor, the Apollo, seats four astronauts.

While the design may be the similar, Orion is equipped with technology that is light-years ahead of the retired spacecraft.

Orion's computer can process 480 million instructions per second. It's also 25 times faster than the computers at the International Space Station, according to NASA.