A few days ago, NASA’s Orion spacecraft successfully splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. This means that, after 25 days, the first mission of the Artemis I program came to an end.
Over the course of nearly a month, Orion treated us with some spectacular and detailed shots of the Moon’s surface. And in a recent video shared by ESA (European Space Agency), you can see the recap of the 25-day trip in only 60 seconds.
Artemis is the international lunar exploration program aimed at taking humankind to the Moon. Orion’s travel around the Moon was a part of the uncrewed Artemis I test flight, and it flew farther than any spacecraft designed to carry humans and return them to Earth.
Solar wings are being moved into position ahead Orion's crew module separating from the @ESA service module. We're now 10 minutes from separation. 5000 miles / 8000 km from Earth. pic.twitter.com/5KH1s84Nup
— Orion Spacecraft (@NASA_Orion) December 11, 2022
“This first mission provided a first test of both NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion moonship that was propelled by the European Service Module’s 33 engines beyond the Moon and into deep space,” ESA writes.
Orion was launched on 16 November 2022 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida. During its mission, it flew by the Moon twice, passing as close as 130 km from the lunar surface. Thanks to this proximity, the spacecraft used the Moon’s gravity to sling it into lunar orbit and then later return it on course to Earth.
This is a live view of the Earth from a distance of 15,000 miles away.
The @NASA_Orion spacecraft is mere hours away from arriving home. #Artemis pic.twitter.com/jyq7Hnv0Zp
— NASA (@NASA) December 11, 2022
The first lunar flyby took place on 21 November with the European Service Module (ESM) firing its main engine to send Orion behind and around the Moon. On 25 November, Orion entered the Moon’s orbit when the ESM fired its main engine.
On 11 December 2022, the Orion spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. “Just 40 minutes before splashdown, and having delivered Orion safely back to Earth, ESA’s European Service Module (ESM) with its Crew Module Adapter detached from the capsule,” ESA explains. Everything went as planned:
“The ESM burned up harmlessly in the atmosphere as the Orion Crew Module guided itself through re-entry, orienting the capsule with its own thrusters, releasing its three parachutes and gracefully splashing down off the coast of San Diego, USA.”
This is all exciting, but just imagine: it’s only the beginning. ESA explains that future European Service Modules will provide electricity, propulsion and cabin thermal control for astronauts on lunar missions. They will also be designed to supply them with breathable atmosphere and drinking water. And of course – they’ll be equipped with cameras so we’ll see plenty more of splendid photos from the Moon – but let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.
[via Digital Trends]
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