NASA's Orion spacecraft makes closest approach to moon's surface

Updated on Nov 21, 2022 07:11 PM IST

Of the three missions planned, Artemis I is an unmanned flight test of the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft around the Moon.

In this picture Orion spacecraft, Earth, Moon is visible from left to right. (European Space Agency/ Twitter)
In this picture Orion spacecraft, Earth, Moon is visible from left to right. (European Space Agency/ Twitter)
By | Written by Singh Rahul Sunilkumar | Edited by Aryan Prakash

The Artemis mission 1 Orion spacecraft has performed its first powered lunar flyby. It made its closest approach to the lunar surface passing within 80 miles (128 kilometres) on its way to a lunar orbit.

The close approach occurred as the crew capsule and its three test dummies were on the far side of the moon, AP reported. The report added, due to the half-hour communication blackout, flight controllers in Houston were not aware if the critical engine firing went as planned. But it became clear once the capsule emerged from behind the moon.

Orion needed to slingshot around the moon to pick up enough speed to enter the sweeping, lopsided lunar orbit. If all continues to go well, another engine firing will place the capsule in that orbit Friday.

Next weekend, Orion will shatter NASA’s distance record for a spacecraft designed for astronauts — nearly 250,000 miles (400,000 kilometres) from Earth, set by Apollo 13 in 1970. And it will keep going, reaching a maximum distance from Earth next Monday at nearly 270,000 miles (433,000 kilometres).

The capsule will spend close to a week in lunar orbit, before heading home. A Pacific splashdown is planned for December 11.

Orion has no lunar lander; a touchdown won't come until NASA astronauts attempt a lunar landing in 2025 with SpaceX's Starship. Before then, however, astronauts will strap into Orion for a ride around the moon as early as 2024.

Of the three missions planned, Artemis I is an unmanned flight test of the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft around the Moon.

The US space agency eyes to send the first woman and first person of colour to the Moon by 2025. There are three missions are currently planned. Artemis I is an uncrewed flight test with no one on the board of the Orion spacecraft. The last crewed mission to the Moon was the 12-day Apollo 17 mission, between 7 and 19 December in 1972.

(Inputs from AP)

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