The Air Force Reserve’s 920th Rescue Wing out of Patrick AFB, Fla., provided security, safety and patrol support when NASA launched a test flight of its Orion deep space capsule earlier this month. “What a thrill and tremendous opportunity for all members of team Patrick-Cape to play a very active—and vitally important role—in this historic mission,” said Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, 45th Space Wing commander, in a Dec. 15 release. “This mission is a testament to all the hard work and teamwork that culminated in a safe, successful launch.” The Dec. 5 flight is to “evaluate launch and high speed re-entry systems such as avionics, attitude control, parachutes, and the heat shield” for future human deep space missions, according to the release. Orion is a critical part of NASA’s plan to eventually send humans to Mars.
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.