NASA’s Orion spacecraft breaks Apollo 13’s flight record
The Artemis 1 Orion crew vehicle set a new NASA flight record. At approximately 8:40 a.m. ET Saturday, Orion flew farther than any spacecraft designed to carry human astronauts, surpassing the previous record set by Apollo 13 in 1970. As of 10:17 a.m. ET, Orion was approximately 249,666 miles away (from 401,798 kilometers) from Earth.
“Artemis I was designed to highlight the Orion systems, and we settled on the far retrograde orbit as a really good way to do that,” said Jim Geffre, Orion Spacecraft Integration Manager. “It just so happened that with this really big orbit, high altitude above the moon, we were able to pass the record of Apollo 13. But what was more important, though, was expanding the boundaries of exploration and sending spacecraft farther , than we ever did.”
Of all the missions that could have broken the record, it’s fitting that Artemis 1 was the one to do so. Like Space.com points out, the original Apollo 13 flight plan did not call for a record-setting flight. Only after a mid-mission explosion forced NASA to chart a new return course did Apollo 13’s Odyssey command module set the previous record of 248,655 miles (400,171 kilometers) from Earth.
With the Aquarius lunar module’s oxygen supply limited, NASA had to return Apollo 13 back to Earth as quickly as possible. The agency eventually settled on a flight path that used the moon’s gravity to launch Apollo 13 back to Earth. One NASA employee who was critical to the safe return of astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Hayes was Arthur Fields. He wrote the emergency plan that gave the Command and Service Module enough power to return to Earth. Artemis 1 carries “The moon too” test dummy named after the late Arturo.
Earlier this week, Orion completed a moon flyby. After the spacecraft makes half an orbit around the satellite, it will shoot towards Earth. NASA expects Orion to touch down off the coast of San Diego on December 11.
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