NASA’s Orion spacecraft, Artemis 1, is now orbiting the Moon.
Orion made its way to Earth’s closest space neighbor, the Moon, after being launched last Wednesday (Nov. 16) on NASA’s Artemis 1 mission. On Friday afternoon (Nov. 25), the capsule finally reached its destination.
Orion’s engine burns on Friday at 4:52 p.m. EST successfully inserted the spacecraft into a distant retrograde orbit around the moon as planned.
“A few months ago, Orion traveled farther away from the moon than it ever will during its mission. This milestone marks our progress as we continue to build a manned space mission to Mars.”
shortly after landing. “While in lunar orbit, flight controllers will monitor key systems and perform checkouts while in the environment of deep space.”
This was the DRO’s purpose: to travel 40,000 miles beyond the moon at its most distant point. As such, it will set a new record for human-rated spacecraft by getting farther from Earth than any other of that type.
The furthest Apollo mission was Apollo 13. The crew didn’t mean to travel that far because they were recovering from an oxygen tank failure in space. So, instead of landing on the moon, the spacecraft looped around it.
After Saturday morning, it’ll seem like the Orion spacecraft is squished into Apollo 13’s record for being most distant from Earth. The capsule will continue to explore the dark depths of space for two more days before coming near Earth again on Monday (Nov. 28).
The Orion crew module will spend less than a week at the DRO. It will leave lunar orbit with an engine burn on December 1 and start heading home to Earth. If everything goes to plan, the Orion crew module will arrive here on December 11 via splashdown near the California coast.
NASA hopes to launch astronauts on the Orion 1 mission sometime this fall. This nearly 26-day mission will test out the Orion and NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, which sent the capsule skyward last week.
The first of those astronaut flights, Artemis 2, will send Orion around the moon in 2024. Artemis 3 will then put boots down near the lunar south pole in 2025 or 2026. Further landed missions will follow as NASA builds a crewed research outpost in the south-polar region. It is one of the key objectives of their Artemis program.