NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft will arrive in lunar orbit on Friday afternoon (Nov. 25), and you’ll be able to watch the milestone moment live.
Orion has been making a detour to Earth’s nearest neighbor since launch last Wednesday (Nov. 16) on NASA’s Artemis 1 mission — and the unmanned capsule is about to reach its destination.
On Friday at 4:52 p.m. EST (2152 GMT), Orion will perform an engine burn that will put the spacecraft into a distant retrograde orbit (DRO) around the moon. You can watch all the action live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA, starting at 4:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT).
Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission: live updates
More: 10 wild facts about the Artemis 1 moon mission
The DRO will take Orion about 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) past the moon at its most distant point. As it travels that path, the capsule will set a new record, getting farther from Earth than any previously human-assessed spacecraft.
The current figure of 248,655 miles (400,171 km) is held by NASA’s Apollo 13 mission, which was not intended to travel that far. Apollo 13 looped around the Moon instead of landing on its body after an oxygen tank in the spacecraft’s deep space service module failed.
Orion will spend just under a week in the DRO. The capsule will leave lunar orbit on Dec. 1 with an engine burnout and then head for Earth. Orion will arrive here on Dec. 11 with a splash into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, if all goes according to plan.
The nearly 26-day Artemis 1 mission is designed to explore Orion and NASA’s massive Space Launch System rocket, which launched the capsule last week ahead of planned manned missions to the moon.
The first of those astronaut flights, Artemis 2, will send Orion around the moon in 2024. Artemis 3 will then set boots near the south pole of the moon in 2025 or 2026. the Antarctic — a key objective of the Artemis programme.
Mike Wall is the author of “Outside (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).