A San Diego-based aerospace company is building a piece of spacecraft that will eventually blast off to Mars.
Hundreds of parts for one of NASA’s biggest missions will come from San Diego Composites in the Miramar area.
The company’s engineers are creating the most important piece of NASA's new Orion spacecraft.
That is, if a major problem pops up during its launch.
NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio visited Wednesday to see the company’s launch abort system firsthand.
“I've launched on four missions now and there's always a certain number of close calls," Mastracchio said.
In the event of a malfunction or emergency at liftoff, the piece acts like a cocoon around the pod that holds the astronauts. It’s designed to carry the crew to safety.
Rob Kolozs, President of San Diego Composites, said the system goes into effect when and if a booster starts to malfunction.
“That will pull the spacecraft off of those boosters and take them a mile up and a mile away almost at the speed of sound and take them to safety and then parachute back to earth," Kolozs said.
NASA plans to launch Orion to asteroids, the moon and eventually take humans to Mars. The hope is that Orion will carry astronauts by 2021.