The Artemis I mission brought Orion at its closest approach to the Moon as it blasted off on its way to an orbit that will take it farther from Earth than any previous human-classified spacecraft.
Orion entered the moonSunday’s gravitational influence used that force with a thrust on a powered external combustion engine to come within 81 miles of the lunar surface. And it will move away from the moon during the next week by about 40,000 miles.
This would bring it about 268,000 miles from Earth, exceeding the distance traveled by Apollo 13 by about 30,000 miles.
“This is one of those days that you’ve been thinking about and dreaming about for a very long time,” said NASA Flight Director Zeb Scoville. “This morning, we just saw Earth behind the Moon as we take the next human-class rover around the Moon in preparation to get humans back there in a few years. This is a game-changer.”
Orion launched from Kennedy Space Center on November 16 atop the Space Launch System becoming the most powerful rocket ever successfully launched from Earth into space with a thrust of 8.8 million pounds.
Built by prime contractor Lockheed Martin and originally designed for NASA’s defunct Constellation program that was canceled in 2010, Orion has transitioned to become the flagship spacecraft for the new Artemis deep space program with plans to travel to the moon and eventually to Mars.
The 25.5-day mission is set to orbit the Moon in this distant retrograde orbit, meaning reversing the Moon’s rotation, several times before returning to Earth for a landing in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11.
This first one will take about six days. Outbound flight commenced at 7:44 AM EST with closest approach around 7:57 AM
As it flew around the far side of the Moon, Orion lost contact with NASA for about 34 minutes.
The 2-minute, 30-second burn comes with 6,000 pounds of thrust from Orion’s Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) engine, which previously flew 19 missions of the Space Shuttle program between 1984 and 2002. In total, the service module contains 33 engines, all of which From contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, to allow for smaller modifications to the flight.
Artemis I is an uncrewed flight looking to show that the capsule is safe for humans. that it Heat shield It will need to fend off return temperatures near 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit as the spacecraft comes in faster than any previously human-rated vehicle, reaching Mach 32 around 24,500 mph.
If successful, NASA could move forward with Artemis II, a manned mission that will orbit the moon no later than May 2024 and Artemis III, which looks to return humans, including the first woman, to the lunar surface no later than 2025.
The first time NASA made a trip around the far side of the Moon was Apollo 8 in 1968 with astronauts Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, and Bill Anders.
“People on Earth tend to call the far side of the Moon the dark side, but that’s a misnomer,” Bormann said in an archived NASA video. “On our journey the Moon was between the Earth and the Sun and the other side was illuminated by the Sun.”
Lovell, who also flew on Apollo 13, said he and his companions were in awe of that first flight.
“We’ve seen the far side,” he said. “We were like three schoolboys looking through a candy store window. I think we were staring at the unnamed pits as they slowly passed us.”
On his second flight when Apollo 13 could not do Landing on the moonIt ended up flying 248,655 miles from Earth in 1970.
Orion will pass that distance on its 11th day of the mission on November 26.
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