NASA’s Orion spacecraft reached the farthest point of its journey from Earth on Monday, more than 430,000 km from humanity’s home world. That’s nearly twice the distance between Earth and the Moon, and farther than the Apollo capsule traveled during NASA’s lunar missions in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In this view, Monday, a camera connected to solar panels aboard the Orion service module took pictures Just outside the Moon and the Earth. These were lovely, lonely and thought-provoking pictures.
“The pictures were crazy,” said Rick LaBrode, chief flight director of the Artemis I mission. “It’s really hard to put into words what that feeling is. It’s really amazing to be here and see it.”
LaBrode spoke during a press conference at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where he and other NASA officials provided an update on the progress of the mission to test the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. This uncrewed test flight is a precursor to manned missions later this decade, including the Artemis III moon landing.
After the successful launch, mission manager Mike Sarafin said the agency now has full confidence Space Launch System rocket🇧🇷 “The rocket has been proven,” he said.
Orion, of course, still has work to do. The spacecraft’s mission won’t be complete until it maneuvers around the moon, returns to Earth, survives re-entry into the atmosphere, splashes into the ocean and is washed ashore near San Diego, California. It is scheduled to happen on December 11.
However, the mission is going so well that NASA has decided to add different objectives, such as firing the engines longer than intended to test their performance. This work will further increase NASA’s confidence in the Orion capsule and the propulsion service module provided by the European Space Agency.
In total, 31 of the Artemis I mission’s 124 primary objectives have been completed, Sarafin said. Many of these relate to the performance of the launch vehicle. Half of the remaining goals are being implemented, and the other half is yet to be completed. Most of these are related to landing on Earth, such as the parachute deployment system.
It’s clear that NASA engineers are very excited about Artemis I’s performance so far. Achieving this mission with the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft was a long, difficult and expensive development path. But after the vehicles began flying, their performance lived up to all the space agency’s expectations and hopes, boosting confidence in the future of the Artemis program to explore the Moon.
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