Artemis 1: NASA’s Orion spacecraft snaps a selfie on its journey beyond the far side of the moon


NASA has released a selfie taken by the Orion capsule and close-up photos of the moon’s crater-marked landscape as the spacecraft continues on the Artemis 1 mission, a 25-and-a-half day journey spanning more than 65,000 miles. will go beyond the other side of the moon.

Orion’s latest selfie — taken on Wednesday, the eighth day of the mission, by a camera on one of the capsule’s solar panels — reveals the spacecraft angles with a sliver of the moon visible in the background. The close-up photos were taken Monday when Orion made its closest approach to the moon, passing about 80 miles (129 kilometers) above the lunar surface.

Should Orion complete its journey past the Moon and back to Earth, it will be the farthest journey a human-carrying spacecraft has ever traveled. For now, the capsule only carries inanimate scientific payloads.

Orion is part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to eventually establish an outpost on the moon that can permanently house astronauts for the first time in history, in hopes of one day paving a route to Mars.

The Artemis I mission launched on Nov. 16, when NASA’s beleaguered and long-delayed Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket-launched the Orion capsule into space, cementing the rocket as the most powerful operational launch vehicle ever built.

As of Thursday afternoon, the capsule was 222,993 miles (358,972 kilometers) from Earth and 55,819 miles (89,831 kilometers) from the moon, traveling just over 2,600 miles per hour, according to NASA.

Orion is now about a day away from entering a “distant retrograde orbit” around our nearest neighbor — far, because it will be at a very high altitude above the lunar surface, and retrograde, because it will orbit the moon in the opposite direction. direction from which the moon travels around the earth.

The path is intended to “stress” the Orion capsule, as Michael Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis mission manager, put it last week.

According to NASA’s Artemis blog, the agency’s television coverage of the distant retrograde orbital insertion burn is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET Friday, and the burn is scheduled for 4:52 p.m. ET.

The Orion capsule is expected to return to Earth after orbiting the moon and make a soft landing in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11.

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