Artemis 1: NASA’s Orion spacecraft takes a selfie on its journey beyond the far side of the moon
NASA released a selfie taken by the Orion capsule and close-up images of the moon’s cratered landscape as the spacecraft continues the Artemis 1 mission, a 25-and-a-half-day journey that will take it more than 40,000 miles beyond the far side of the moon.
Orion’s latest selfie — taken on Wednesday, the eighth day of the mission, from a camera on one of the capsule’s solar arrays — reveals the spacecraft giving angles with a bit of the moon visible in the background. The close-up photos were taken on Monday when Orion did its thing closest approach to the moonpassing about 80 miles (129 kilometers) above the lunar surface.
If Orion completes its journey beyond the Moon and back to Earth, it will be the farthest a human-carrying spacecraft has ever traveled. For now, the capsule is just a carrier inanimate, learned payloads.
Orion is part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to eventually create a lunar outpost that can permanently host astronauts for the first time in history, with the hope of one day paving a route to Mars.
The Artemis I mission launched on November 16when NASA’s beleaguered and long-delayed Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket launched the Orion capsule into space, cementing the rocket as the most powerful operational launch vehicle ever built.
As of Thursday afternoon, the capsule was 222,993 miles (358,972 kilometers) from Earth and 55,819 miles (89,831 kilometers) from the moon, traveling at just over 2,600 mph, according to NASA.
Orion is now about a day away from entering a “distant retrograde orbit” around our nearest neighbor—distant because it will be at a very high altitude above the lunar surface, and retrograde because it will orbit the moon in the opposite direction the moon orbits Earth.
The trip is meant to “stress test” the Orion capsule, as Michael Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis mission manager, said last week.
According to NASA’s Artemis Blogthe agency’s television coverage of the far retrograde insertion burn is scheduled for 4:30 PM ET Friday and the burn is scheduled to take place at 4:52 PM ET.
After orbiting the moon, the Orion capsule is expected to return to Earth and make a soft landing in the Pacific Ocean on December 11.