Artemis I passes 81 miles above the surface of the Moon before heading a record distance from Earth

Earth is seen setting on the far side of the Moon just beyond the Orion spacecraft in this video taken on day six of the Artemis I mission by a camera on the tip of one of Orion’s solar arrays . The spacecraft was preparing for the Outbound Powered Flyby maneuver that would bring it within 80 miles of the lunar surface, the closest approach for the Artemis I uncrewed mission, before going into a deep retrograde orbit around the Moon. The spacecraft entered the lunar sphere of influence on Sunday November 20, making the Moon, instead of the Earth, the main gravitational force acting on the spacecraft.

Just like the James Webb Space Telescopeit took scientists and engineers years and various launch attempts to get the The Artemis I SLS rocket and its Orion spacecraft in the air. After four launch attempts in two months, the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA was successfully launched last week. Good things are now happening to those who waited: the mission is going wonderfully, and soon the spacecraft will be farther from Earth than any other vehicle intended to transport human beings has ever reached.

On Monday, Orion passed just 81 miles above the Moon’s surface while traveling at 2,128 mph. So close and yet so far. A burn pushed that speed up to 5,102 mph as the spacecraft headed for previous Apollo 11, 12 and 14 landing sites, according to Nasa. Here are some additional facts and figures to completely blow your mind:

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Orion will travel approximately 57,287 miles beyond the Moon at its farthest point from the Moon on November 25, surpassing the record set by Apollo 13 for the farthest distance traveled by a spacecraft designed for humans at 248,655 miles from Earth on Saturday, November 26. , and reach its maximum distance from Earth of 268,552 miles on Monday, November 28.

As of Monday, November 21, a total of 3,715.7 pounds of propellant has been used, 76.2 pounds less than expected pre-launch values. There is 2,112.2 pounds of headroom available over what is planned for in-mission use, an increase of 201.7 pounds over expected pre-launch values.

Just after 2:45 p.m. CST on Nov. 21, Orion had traveled 216,842 miles from Earth and was 13,444 miles from the Moon, cruising at 3,489 miles per hour.

The Artemis I mission is the first unmanned step to the moon for the United States. She will spend about 25 days doing a few loops around the moon before returning to Earth. The Orion spacecraft and the new spacesuits on board will be pushed to their limits more than 500,000 kilometers from Earth. The next stage, Artemis II, is scheduled to start in 2025 and will involve a four-person crew flight around the moon and take humans the furthest ever into space. By 2026, we could have boots on the still unexplored lunar south pole.

Image: NASA

Image: NASA

The goal of the Artemis missions is not just a chance to revisit the Moon, but to set up a permanent lunar base in orbit that will allow astronauts to spend weeks or even months exploring the Moon and serve as a staging point. launch for further exploration. of our solar system.

Despite early SNAFUs delaying launches in August, September and October, Orion program director Howard Hu told reporters on Monday that Artemis Flight 1 “…continues to operate exceptionally well” since the New York Times:

Except for a few minor glitches – Mike Sarafin, the Artemis mission manager, called them “funnies” – the Artemis I flight went smoothly. The funny ones understood that Orion’s star trackers were momentarily confused when the spacecraft’s thrusters fired.

“We’re on day six of a 26-day mission,” Sarafin said on Monday, “so I’d give it a cautiously optimistic A+.”

The flyover exercised the major piece of Artemis that is not American. Parts of the Space Launch rocket were built by Boeing, Northrop Grumman and United Launch Alliance, while the Orion capsule itself was built by Lockheed Martin.

However, the service module – the part of Orion below the capsule that houses thrusters, solar panels, communications equipment and other supplies – was built by Airbus and was one of the contributions of the European Space Agency in the Artemis program. The module will not return to Earth, but will be jettisoned to burn up in the atmosphere shortly before the capsule falls.

The Orion spacecraft is set to return to Earth on December 11, crashing into the Pacific Ocean off California.

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