NASA's Orion capsule - the Mars hopeful - successfully swan dived into the Pacific Ocean after circling Earth twice in an unmanned flight test.

The conical craft parachuted down at 8:29 a.m. PT (11:29 a.m. EST) about 600 miles southwest of San Diego, Calif., according to CNN.

"America has driven a golden spike as it crosses a bridge into the future," a NASA announcer said, according to CNN.

The flight took Orion 3,600 miles above Earth, according to CNN - that's higher than any orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972 and 15 times higher than the International Space Station. NASA hopes to take a human crew into deep space by 2021.

"The launch itself (was) just a blast, as you see how well the rocket did. It was exciting to see," NASA Orion program manager Mark Geyer said on NASA TV, according to CNN.

Space shuttle tasks like carrying astronauts and supplies to the ISS have been mainly privatized by companies like SpaceX, but NASA is concentrating on taking humans farther into space, and eventually to Mars, according to CNN.

"We haven't had this feeling in a while, since the end of the shuttle program," Orion Flight Director Mike Sarafin said on Wednesday, according to CNN.

The Orion capsule has a retro look - mirroring the Apollo cone shape - but it has more room for crew that the first designs of the conical capsule. Once Orion is ready for full operation, NASA plans to redirect an asteroid to the moon's orbit, according to CNN. Once Orion's super rockets are ready, four astronauts will be able to visit an asteroid in the 2020s, and then eventually, the cosmic cherry-on-top: Mars.

Although this Orion flight was unmanned, it wasn't empty. The names of more than a million people were carried on a microchip; "Sesame Street" sent Ernie's rubber ducky and Cookie Monster gave up a precious cookie for the trip; an oxygen hose from an Apollo 11 spacesuit and lunar soil were transported and the craft's lockers were chockfull of flags, coins, patches, poetry and music.