What Flew on Orion’s Maiden Voyage?

On December 5, 2014, the Orion spacecraft became the first spacecraft built for humans to soar through the Van Allen radiation belt and into space since Apollo 17 in December of 1972. This successful uncrewed mission is a major step in the nation’s return to deep space human exploration, with planned travel to an asteroid and eventually Mars.  Orion’s first flight test, called Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), captured the world’s attention and inspired many about the future of discovery and space flight. NASA’s launch commentator shared this excitement as Orion blazed into the morning sky:

"The dawn of Orion in a new era of American space exploration!"

This pride and inspiration will now be carried on through the mementos and keepsakes that flew aboard this historic first flight. To inspire a new generation to look to the stars, Lockheed Martin, in partnership with NASA, managed the Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 ancillary items manifest.

Lockheed Martin solicited and received artifacts from many organizations, including industry trade associations, higher education institutions and museums. Also, STEM/STEAM (science, technology, engineering (arts) and mathematics) advocates contributed a significant amount of collateral to encourage students to study space-related fields.  

The Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) played a critical role in coordinating items provided by directors, producers, actors, and musicians in the entertainment industry who support human space exploration. EIC serves as a link between the science and the entertainment industries, and enables communication between scientists, the creative community and the public. Through this partnership, EIC helped gather mementos to inspire audiences worldwide.

Several stowage lockers were packed with a diverse collection of memorabilia gathered from artists, writers, poets, actors, professional organizations and universities – individuals inspired by the pure potential of the Orion spacecraft. A majority of the over 7,400 items flown on the spacecraft included an assortment of flags, coins, pins and commemorative patches, but several unique items flew onboard as well. Check them out below!  


Pharrell Williams’ From One Hand to Another (FOHTA) foundation celebrated the Orion initiative by collaborating with NASA to educate young people and foster a curiosity about all things STEAM.  “Orion's journey represents the culmination of many dreams and is an inspiration to students we encourage to dream big,” said FOHTA representatives. The organization celebrated student’s accomplishments by contributing a series of student produced public service announcements to the spacecraft’s payload, and 24 hours and 40 minutes of the song "Happy" to represent the equivalent to a Martian day. In addition the FOHTA students completed the NASA Exploration Design Challenge, earning the honor of being designated "virtual crew" for this historic mission.


Sally Ride captured the nation’s imagination as a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers. But Sally’s historic flight represented just one aspect of a remarkable life—she was also a physicist, a science writer, and an inspirational advocate for science literacy. In honor of Sally Ride, the Sally Ride Science organization gave the STS-7 crew patch that Sally wore on her first spaceflight and an excerpt from Sally and Tam O’Shaughnessy’s The Mystery of Mars children’s book:  

“One day astronauts will make the long journey to Mars. When they step out of their spacecraft onto the red Martian soil, they will become the first human beings to visit another planet. This expedition will extend our presence farther into the solar system. It will be the adventure of a lifetime.”


NEWorks Productions contributed a limited-edition sound recording of the iconic anthem, We Shall Overcome, arranged by American songwriter Nolan Williams, Jr. for choir and orchestra, featuring acclaimed Mezzo Soprano Denyce Graves and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Dedication Choir.


The Angelou Johnson Family and Caged Bird Legacy, LLC was pleased to continue the life work of Dr. Maya Angelou and contributed several items to the manifest. Among many poems, the Angelou Family purposefully selected “Brave and Startling Truth” which was written and delivered by Dr. Angelou in honor of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, a fitting tribute to Orion’s first flight.

Photo courtesy The Angelou Johnson Family and Caged Bird Legacy, LLC


The National Symphony Orchestra marked the centennial of the composition of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” with a DVD carrying an excerpt of the movement “Mars,” recorded live during the NSO’s Young People’s Concerts October 2014 led by Assistant Conductor Ankush Kumar Bahl.

Photo Courtesy of National Symphony Orchestra

Poet Marshall Davis Jones contributed an original poem to commemorate the first launch. “Throughout history, story has been a driving force for our development. Capturing moments in time, we are able to celebrate our achievements and inspire new ones,” stated Jones. “Writing this poem to commemorate our next great leap was both an honor and a privilege. These words leaving our orbit, reminds me that as our story continues, someone must be there to tell it. Who'd of thought that the power of poetry belonged on this world and would carry us to the next? I've never been more inspired.”

We have tasted the moon
underneath our feet

We have landed our flag
where the night watches sleep

We have said to the stars
"my, we meet at last"

We have unlatched from gravity
and defied its grasp

We have conquered the clouds
once mighty above us

With the honorable brave
and the mighty among us

We have taken to the unknown
the uncharted, the dark

We have lifted the veil
and ignited a spark

We are forward
we are countdown

We are stretch of sky

We are 10 moments frozen

9 pulses a heart race of

8 breaths held for

7 walks toward heaven with

6 seconds to lift

5 fingers to palm

4 engines to throttle

3 systems to go

2 where we are meant


We are one
one step
before our next big...

Marshall Davis Jones



The Denver Museum of Nature & Science was proud and excited to be a part of Orion’s historic journey into space. By sending the first Tyrannosaurus Rex, tooth that is, into space onboard Orion EFT-1, the museum hoped to
reflect on the past and inspire future generations of scientists.


The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum contributed several item including::

  • An oxygen hose from an Apollo lunar extra-vehicular activity suit representing humanity's first ventures  to other planetary objects
  • The Museum's own flag first flown on the space shuttle orbiter Discovery in 1984 representing the era of living and working in space
  • And a futuristic sculpture awarded by the Museum as a trophy for current and lifetime achievements in aerospace representing innovation and excellence


Notable celebrities were also inspired by the inaugural mission. “The Big Bang Theory” actress and neuroscientist, Mayim Bialik, submitted photos of her ancestors to soar to space. The photos signified her family’s journey to build a life in the new world and the opportunities attained through the generations.

William Shatner, best known for his role on “Star Trek”, submitted his collector edition Capt. James T. Kirk as a way to send Kirk back to space and support the Orion mission, inspiring future generations to travel deeper into space. “With the Orion MPCV [Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle], we stand on the edge of a new era of manned exploration," said Shatner.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, which curates lunar samples returns from the Apollo moon missions, provided a small lunar soil sample retrieved by the Apollo 11 crew on July 21, 1969. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin collected 47.5 pounds of lunar material for return to earth. The Orion team was proud to include NASA’s lunar sample from that historic flight as a tribute to past achievements in human space flight, and in anticipation of future missions that will lead toward missions to Mars.



"If it wasn’t for the work of NASA, would we have the technology we have today? For us to continue to advance, we need to remember how important it is to empower youth with the STEAM skills they need to invent for tomorrow. Giving kids the opportunity to create something for the Orion mission is truly inspirational," said will.i.am

will.i.am and the i.am.angel Foundation contributed a special 3D-printed robot sculpture designed by talented students from Boyle Heights, east Los Angeles. The piece represents the importance of empowering students with skills in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), in order to be the next generation of innovators, to push humanity forward.


Photos courtesy of i.am.angel Foundation  


Winners of the Exploration Design Challenge here with Lockheed Martin Chairman, President and CEO Marillyn Hewson (left), NASA Randy Bresnik (middle) and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

The first flight also included a very special payload – the winning design from the Exploration Design Challenge. After a year-long competition among high school teams across the country, evaluators from NASA, Lockheed Martin and the National Institute of Aerospace selected Team ARES from the Governor’s School for Science and Technology in Hampton, Va., as the winner of the high school portion of the Exploration Design Challenge (EDC) from 46 high school team submissions. The team designed a radiation shielding project to protect sensors, called dosimeters, from the fierce radiation Orion would encounter as it flew through the Van Allen belt during Exploration Flight Test-1. The experiment is a Tesseract Design—slightly less structurally sound than a sphere, as the stresses are located away from the cube on the phalanges. The EDC payload was placed in the exact point where a future astronaut’s heart and chest cavity will be located to help directly relate the radiation levels to an astronaut’s exposure.

The experiment has now been extracted from the Orion crew module and will undergo further analysis by Oklahoma State University and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, to determine the effectiveness of the design. The students expect to complete their post-flight analyses and report in early 2015.


Finally, scores of virtual passengers rode along on Orion’s mission. More than 38,000 students successfully completed the NASA Exploration Design Challenge earning “seats” as virtual crew members. They were joined by nearly 1.4 million virtual passengers, who registered through NASA’s Boarding Pass initiative to have their names flown on a special microchip as a part of the mission cargo.  

Other Highlights:

  • Over 7,400 items flew as auxiliary payload on Orion EFT-1
  • STEM and STEAM organizations like  the i.am.angel Foundation, Challenger Centers, and From One Hand to Another (FOTHA) worked with students on several unique payloads