Artemis I passes 81 miles above the surface of the Moon before heading to a record distance from Earth
Very similar to James Webb Space Telescopescientists and engineers took years and multiple startup try to receive The Artemis I SLS rocket and its Orion spacecraft in midair. After four launch attempts over two months, the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA successfully blasted off just last week. Good things are coming now for those who have been waiting: the mission is going smoothly, and soon the spacecraft will be farther from Earth than any vehicle designed to carry 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 yet so far. A burn boosted that speed to 5,102 miles per hour as the spacecraft made its way over the previous landing sites of Apollo 11, 12 and 14, according to NASA. Here are some more facts and figures that will completely blow your mind:
Orion will travel about 57,287 miles beyond the moon at its farthest point from the moon on Nov. 25, surpassing the record set by Apollo 13 for the longest distance traveled by a human spacecraft 248,655 miles from Earth on Saturday , Nov. 26 , and reach its maximum distance from Earth of 268,552 miles on Monday, Nov. 28.
As of Monday, November 21, a total of 3,715.7 pounds of propellant had been used, 76.2 pounds less than the pre-launch estimate. There is 2,112.2 pounds available over and above what was planned for use during the mission, an increase of 201.7 pounds from the pre-launch estimates.
Just after 2:45 p.m. CST on November 21, Orion had passed 216,842 miles from Earth and was 13,444 miles from the Moon, traveling at 3,489 miles per hour.
The Artemis I mission is the first unmanned step back to the Moon for the US. It will spend about 25 days making several trips around the moon before returning to Earth. The Orion spacecraft and the new spacesuits on board will be pushed to their limits while more than a quarter of a million miles from Earth. The next step, Artemis II, is planned for sometime in 2025 and will involve a four-person crewed flight around the Moon and take humans the farthest in space yet. By 2026, we may have boots on the still-unexplored South Pole of the Moon.
The purpose of the Artemis missions is not simply to revisit the Moon, but to establish a permanent lunar base in orbit that will allow astronauts to spend weeks or even months exploring the Moon, as well as serve as a starting point for more further exploration of our solar system.
Despite early SNAFUs that delayed launches in August, September and October, Orion program manager Howard Hu told reporters Monday that the Artemis 1 flight “…continues to perform exceptionally well,” from New York Times:
Except for minor hiccups — Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin called them “fun” — the Artemis I flight went smoothly. The fun involved Orion’s star trackers instantly going haywire when the spacecraft’s thrusters fired.
“We’re on a flight, day six of a 26-day mission,” Mr. Sarafin said Monday, “so I’d give it a cautiously optimistic A+.”
The flyover exercises the main part of Artemis, which 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 the engines, solar arrays, communications equipment and other consumables – was built by Airbus and is one of the European Space Agency’s contributions to the Artemis programme. The module will not return to Earth, but will instead be ejected to burn up in the atmosphere shortly before the capsule explodes.
The Orion spacecraft is expected to return to Earth on December 11, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.
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