NASA’s Orion capsule is gearing up for its closest approach to the moon, flying 79.2 miles above the lunar surface, but will first have to perform a 207-second engine burn — the longest on the Artemis I mission.
This engine burn will shift the capsule’s speed by 655 miles per hour, putting it on the path back to Earth, where it will splash into the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11.
NASA is organizing one live stream for today’s powered return flyby which begins at 9 a.m. ET and engine burnout is scheduled for 11:43 a.m. ET.
Orion will lose communication with the ground team for about 31 minutes starting at 11:40 a.m. ET as it hovers behind the far side of the moon.
NASA’s Orion soars to the moon for its closest approach yet. It will hover 79 miles above the lunar surface
The U.S. space agency plans to host another live stream at 5 p.m. ET to discuss the results of the reentry-driven flyby burn and the deployment of recovery resources at sea ahead of Orion’s landing.
On Thursday, the capsule began its first steps on its journey back to Earth by leaving lunar orbit.
The burn on departure began at 4:45 p.m. ET and lasted less than two minutes.
The spacecraft arrived at the moon on Nov. 21 after traveling some 230,000 miles in five days.
The capsule must first perform an engine burn of 207 seconds – the longest during the Artemis I mission
Orion will lose communication with the ground team for about 31 minutes starting at 11:40 a.m. ET as it hovers behind the far side of the Moon
The capsule whizzed over the landing sites of Apollo 11, 12 and 14 as it came within 80 miles of the lunar surface.
It flew farther than any spacecraft built for humans ever did — about 40,000 miles beyond the far side of the moon.
Orion made history shortly after launching on Nov. 16 when it snapped a stunning “blue marble” image of Earth nine hours into its epic journey.
This image marks the first time a human-rated craft has seen this view since the last lunar mission nearly 50 years ago during the Apollo mission in 1972.
Orion will stay in space the longest without docking with a space station and return home faster and hotter than any other craft before it.
The capsule will have to withstand temperatures of 5,000F while traveling at speeds of 24,500 mph before splashing down.
Orion made history shortly after launch on November 16 when it captured a stunning ‘blue marble’ view of Earth nine hours into its epic journey
If the mission succeeds, the unmanned Artemis I will be followed by a human trip around the moon in 2024 and could lead to the first woman and first person of color following in Neil Armstrong’s footsteps the following year.
The plan is to return human boots to the moon on Artemis III in 2025 and eventually build a permanent lunar outpost to go deeper into the cosmos so humans can travel to Mars.
It would be the first time humans have stepped on the moon since 1972.
Named after the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology, Artemis signifies the modern incarnation of the US space agency’s Apollo program, which sent astronauts to the moon for the first time.
This mission has no humans on board, but if everything goes smoothly and the Orion capsule splashes back to Earth as planned, the hope is that a crew of four can make a trip around the moon in two years.
Instead of humans, a trio of human-sized test dummies replace the crew in the Orion capsule, their bodies teeming with sensors to measure radiation and vibration.
Sitting in the commander’s seat is Commander Moonikin Campos – a tribute to electrical engineer Arturo Campos, who played a critical role in bringing the troubled Apollo 13 mission back to Earth safely in 1970.
Dressed in a new Orion Crew Survival System space suit, the mannequin provides NASA scientists with vital data about what humans experience during a trip to the moon.
If the mission succeeds, the unmanned Artemis I will be followed by a human trip around the moon in 2024
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket carrying the Orion crew capsule lifts off from Launch Complex 39-B for the Artemis I unmanned mission to the moon
Two other mannequins, named Helga and Zohar, sit in Orion’s passenger seats. They reflect the determination of the US space agency that a woman will soon be aboard a manned flight to the moon.
The dolls have torsos made of materials that mimic a woman’s softer tissue, organs, and bones.
They are equipped with some 5,600 sensors and 34 radiation detectors to measure the amount of radiation they encounter during the mission.
One is wearing a radiation protection vest and the other is not.
Artemis I was designed to show that the SLS rocket and Orion capsule are ready to carry astronauts for Artemis II and, eventually, the Artemis III mission to return humans to the moon.
In preparation for Orion’s return to Earth, NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program and the US Navy, which will recover Orion from the Pacific Ocean, completed their final day of training at sea, using a dummy pod in the water for divers and small boats to open practice procedures for water recovery.
NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the moon in 2025 as part of the Artemis mission
Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the moon in Greek mythology.
NASA has chosen her to personify her path back to the moon, where astronauts will return to the lunar surface by 2025 – including the first woman and the next man.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions enabling human exploration to the Moon and Mars.
Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be an unmanned flight that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, demonstrating our commitment and capacity to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will launch the world’s most powerful rocket and fly farther than any human-built spacecraft has ever flown.
It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of a mission of about three weeks.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions enabling human exploration to the Moon and Mars. This image explains the different stages of the mission
Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts without docking at a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.
With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps of human exploration into deep space, where astronauts will build and test the near-lunar systems needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations further from Earth, including Mars.
The will take the crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans on board.
Together, Orion, SLS and Kennedy’s ground systems will be able to meet the most challenging requirements for deep space crew and cargo missions.
Ultimately, NASA aims to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.
The space agency hopes that this colony will reveal new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advances and lay the foundations for private companies to build a lunar economy.