NASA's Orion Spacecraft on Way Back Home
The Artemis I mission has sent an uncrewed spacecraft to orbit the Moon and test the rocket and Orion spacecraft systems in readiness for an anticipated crewed flight around the Moon as the next step in the program.
On Monday, NASA's Orion capsule made another pass by the surface of the moon, capturing views of lunar sites from a distance of less than 127km and, having performed its second flyby,, is now is on course to return to Earth on Sunday, according to the space agency.
"We are hearing good confirmation that the burn went as expected," Orion's Artemis I mission control announced. "This burn was crucial as it will slingshot Orion off the [orbit around] the Moon and set it into a trajectory into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California."
The Orion mission under the Artemis-I program lasted 20 days; and is the first flight of a spacecraft in its full configuration, which includes a reentry capsule and a service module, which goes without a crew, but with biological experiments on board.
The spacecraft in that time managed to fly to the moon, make a close flyby, and enter a far retrograde near-lunar orbit, where it stayed for a week. All this time, all the ship's systems were tested, as the next flight of Orion
under the Artemis II program is already under preparation.
On 1 December 2022, Orion turned on its main engine for 95 seconds, performing an approach maneuver from a far retrograde orbit around the moon, and on 3 December entered its Hill sphere.
16 November 2022, 22:25 GMT
Orion was launched from NASA's giant Space Launch System rocket on 16 November at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The unmanned Artemis I mission is a key step toward NASA's goal of crewed lunar flights of the Orion spacecraft, with the first of them, Artemis II, scheduled to launch in 2024. Artemis II is expected to be the first manned lunar mission since Apollo 17 in 1972, which is the last time people landed on the Moon.