Gallery: Launch Abort System

NASA's escape pod

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The biggest stride NASA has taken toward getting its next-generation space-travel program, Constellation, in the air has been this year's successful motor test of the Launch Abort System, which will fire in an emergency and yank the crew capsule up and away from the main rocket below.NASA/WSTF photo by Reed P. Elliott

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The Launch Abort System uses a three-stage rocket to lift the Orion crew capsule away from a faltering rocket.

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The system will blow through 4,700 pounds of propellant in just three seconds, using attitude-control nozzles to keep the capsule (pictured) upright as it blasts away from a falling rocket away from a failing rocket at more than 6,000 mph.

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A series of parachutes brings the capsule and crew back to earth after the Launch Abort System activates.

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NASA's Launch Abort System and all the various modules that go with it.

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The Launch Abort System is connected to the crew capsule, and fits onto NASA's Ares rocket using an adapter.