April 22, 2024

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NASA's Artemis Moon mission complements Flyby with the Orion spacecraft

NASA’s Artemis Moon mission complements Flyby with the Orion spacecraft

NASA’s Orion spacecraft passed the far side of the moon on Monday, passing 81 miles from the surface.

The spacecraft, which has no humans on board, has been moving towards the moon since Wednesday, when it was It was launched as part of the Artemis I mission. Her journey will take another 20 days.

“The vehicle continues to operate exceptionally well,” Howard Hu, NASA’s Orion program manager, said during a news conference Monday night.

One of the main purposes of the mission is to verify that the Orion spacecraft is operating as designed, and to allow NASA to make any necessary adjustments and repairs before boarding the astronauts for Artemis II mission, which won’t take off until at least 2024. The third Artemis mission, which includes the Orion spacecraft in addition to the SpaceX spacecraft, will aim to land astronauts on the moon.

A few minutes before Gorion’s closest pass with the moon on Monday, the capsule fired its engine for 2.5 minutes. This accelerated its speed as the spacecraft swung outward into what is known as a far retrograde orbit.

Orbit is far – 40,000 miles above the surface of the Moon; Retrograde means that the spacecraft orbits the Moon in the opposite direction to the way the Moon travels around the Earth.

The spacecraft will be there for six days, providing an extended period of time for mission controllers to test Orion systems. NASA indicated that it would be the farthest from Earth ever made of any spacecraft designed to transport humans. (The previous record occurred during Apollo 13 when the malfunctioning spacecraft had to swing around the moon for the journey back to Earth instead of entering orbit.)

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Before the flyby, a camera on Orion provided a sharp video of the moon growing larger as the spacecraft approached, and captured a terrestrial cluster—a small blue marble of Earth gliding behind the large gray disk of the moon in the foreground.

With Orion behind the moon, NASA mission controllers lost contact with the spacecraft, as planned. Thus, they didn’t know the engine launch had succeeded until Orion reappeared 34 minutes later.

Judd Freleng, NASA flight director, said the spacecraft demonstrated its ability to transmit live video back to Earth during the flyby. Move more on the NASA website when possible. Orion also took videos and photos of the far side of the Moon while it lost contact with it behind the Moon.

“It will take us a few days to remove these very images,” Mr. Frieling said.

Artemis I lifted off Wednesday on top of NASA’s new Large Space Launch System rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

With the exception of a few minor glitches — Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin called them “fun” — Artemis I’s flight ran smoothly. Gags included Orion’s star trackers getting confused for a moment as the spacecraft’s thrusters fired.

“We are on the sixth flight day of a 26-day mission, so I would give it a cautiously optimistic A+,” Mr. Sarafin said Monday.

March of Flight A major piece of Artemis is not American. The Space Launch rocket parts are built by Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and the United Launch Alliance while the Orion capsule itself is built by Lockheed Martin.

However, the service module—the part of Orion beneath the capsule that houses the thrusters, solar arrays, communications equipment, and other supplies—was built by Airbus, and was one of the European Space Agency’s contributions to the Artemis programme. The module would not return to Earth, but instead would be jettisoned to burn up in the atmosphere shortly before the capsule dispersed.

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On Friday, thrusters will fire at the service module again to put Orion into a distant retrograde orbit. On Saturday, Apollo 13’s Orion will pass the record 248,655 miles from Earth for a spacecraft designed to carry astronauts; Next Monday, Orion will reach its furthest distance from Earth: about 270,000 miles.