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A test version of NASA's Orion spacecraft successfully landed under two main parachutes in the Arizona desert Aug. 26, 2015. NASA photo.

NASA has successfully completed a risky test that involved the simulated failure of two of the Orion spacecraft’s parachutes, the agency announced Aug. 26. An Air Force C-17 flew a model Orion capsule to 35,000 feet above the Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, then dropped it from the cargo bay. Engineers forced the failure of one of the two parachutes used to slow and stabilize the spacecraft at high altitude, and the failure of one of the three main parachutes, which are used to slow the capsule to landing speed. “We test Orion’s parachutes to the extremes to ensure we have a safe system for bringing crews back to Earth on future flights, even if something goes wrong,” said C.J. Johnson, the parachute system’s project manager. The Orion spacecraft is built to take humans further into space than they’ve ever gone before, including to Mars. The capsule has an 11-parachute system to allow it to slow from more than 300 miles per hour to about 20 miles per hour for a safe splash down in the ocean, NASA said. NASA in December 2014 tested the capsule in space, and it circled the Earth twice before landing in the Pacific Ocean, where it was retrieved by a Navy ship.