NASA on Thursday will launch a deep space capsule designed to carry astronauts for the first time in more than four decades and one of Huntington Beach PD’s own will be there to chronicle the action.
Capt. Russell Reinhart was chosen by NASA from more than 3,000 applicants to watch the launch of the Orion space capsule and post live on social media.
“This will be my first time actually going to a live launch,” he said. “I’ve watched a lot of them on TV over the decades, so I’m very excited.”
Thursday’s event is a test flight for the Orion space capsule, the first spaceship since 1972 designed to carry astronauts into deep space.
Apollo’s moon mission was the last time astronauts embarked on such a voyage, but Orion has plans to one day go farther than Apollo ever did.
NASA engineers say the spaceship will be able to take astronauts to near-Earth asteroids and, sometime in the mid-2030s, even to Mars.
Reinhart, who is paying for the trip himself, is one of 150 people from across the United States chosen to participate in the event, which includes social media training, a behind-the-scenes look at Orion, a meet-and-greet with some of NASA’s engineers and a seat at the launch.
Reinhart is a leader in social media engagement who launched a Facebook page for the Huntington Beach Police Department, which now boasts more than 32,000 followers.
He also has more than 1,600 followers on his Twitter page, and more than 6,000 on the department’s Twitter page.
Having an active social media presence and a love for all things NASA is why Reinhart said he believes he was selected to chronicle Orion’s test flight.
“This captured both my interests — social media and space travel,” he said. “Ever since I was a kid, I have been interested in space travel. It’s that whole perspective of how small we are in this big universe.”
Reinhart said Huntington Beach has another connection to Orion that may have played a role in him earning a spot at the launch.
While Lockheed Martin builds the spacecraft, the local Boeing plant helped manufacture the heat shield on the spaceship, which is responsible for protecting the vessel when it re-enters the atmosphere.
“We have a little bit of a connection,” he said. “There are ties back here to Huntington Beach.”
The launch will be at 7:05 a.m. Eastern Time, or 4:05 a.m. Pacific Time, at Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
View the launch live at www.nasa.gov/ntv.
Get Reinhart’s take on the launch by following his Twitter page @rrHBPD.