placeAfter a very close flyby of the Moon, the Orion capsule returns to Earth
The purpose of this “Artemis 1” mission was to allow NASA to test whether the vehicle would be safe to carry a crew in the future.
NASA’s Orion space capsule completed a flyby less than 130 kilometers from the surface of the moon on Monday, a spectacular maneuver that marks the beginning of its return to Earth for this first mission of the Artemis program. By making this flyby so close to the surface, the probe took advantage of the Moon’s gravitational pull to propel itself along its return path.
Communication with the capsule was interrupted for 30 minutes. The essential thrust of the European Service Module’s main engine, which propels the capsule, lasted more than three minutes. “We couldn’t be happier with the ship’s performance,” Debbie Korth, Orion’s deputy lead, said afterward.
“We had to pause and just see: Wow, we’re saying goodbye to the moon,” she said at a hasty conference, in front of the spectacular images that were broadcast live once communications were restored. This was the last major move of the mission.
Landing from San Diego
The second began on November 16 when NASA’s new mega-rocket took off for a 25-and-a-half-day journey. Orion will now make only minor course corrections until it lands in the Pacific Ocean from the US city of San Diego on Sunday, December 11 at 9:40 a.m. local time (6:40 p.m. in Switzerland). Its descent will be slowed by a series of 11 parachutes, then recovered and hoisted aboard a US Navy ship.
During the mission, Orion spent about six days in a distant orbit around the moon. A week ago, this new spacecraft broke the distance record for a habitable capsule by traveling more than 432,000 kilometers from our planet – more than the Apollo missions.
40,000 km per hour
The capsule does not carry a passenger, and the purpose of this “Artemis 1” mission is to test whether the vehicle is safe for future crews. The main objective is to test the resistance of the largest heat shield ever built when entering the Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 40,000 km/h. It would have to withstand temperatures nearly half that of the Sun’s surface (2800°C).
Through the “Artemis” program, the Americans intend to establish a permanent presence on the Moon in preparation for a trip to Mars. The “Artemis 2” mission will take astronauts to the moon, without landing there yet. This honor will go to the crew of “Artemis 3” who will be the first to land on the Moon’s South Pole. Officially, these missions will take place in 2024 and 2025 respectively.
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