Anchorage's namesake ship, the USS Anchorage, is conducting a simulated recovery of NASA's next manned spacecraft.

According to the Navy, the ship left San Diego on Wednesday to retrieve a dummy version of NASA's Orion spacecraft off the coast of Southern California.

The Orion program is built around a crew and service module similar to those used in the 1960s Apollo moon landings. A rocket will carry Orion and a crew of four, on missions NASA hopes will include exploration of the moon and Mars.

According to NASA, the Anchorage's crew will recover a "test object" with the same size, weight and center of gravity as the Orion command module when it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.

A fully operational but uncrewed Orion will be launched on a mission beyond the moon in 2019, with its return to Earth slated for December of that year.

This week's pickup mission is the Anchorage's fourth recovery mission for NASA, which plans to conduct three more before the launch of Orion.

The Anchorage, part of the U.S. 3rd Fleet, was commissioned in Anchorage in May 2013. The amphibious transport dock ship, designed to carry troops, vehicles and helicopters for shore landings, is homeported in San Diego.

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