NASA Artemis Spacecraft Completes Lunar Flyby; Beams Back Images

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NASA Artemis Spacecraft Completes Lunar Flyby; Beams Back Images
Photo Credit: NASA

NASA Artemis I Moon mission finally launched on November 19 from the Kennedy Space Center, taking the Orion spacecraft for a trip around the Moon. The spacecraft made a critical flyby to make sure it is placed in the lunar orbit. Along the way, the Orion spacecraft beamed back some breathtaking images of Earth.

 

Orion, built by Lockheed Martin for NASA, comes packed with cameras on the inside and outside. After taking off aboard NASA’s Space Launch System, Orion started beaming back images of the Earth.

Astonishing Views Of The Earth

As the spacecraft began its closest approach to the Moon, the space agency shared live views of the lunar surface and Earth. The images were taken using Orion’s cameras placed on solar arrays.

NASA lost signal with the spacecraft for 34 minutes just before its engines lit up for a few minutes to push it into a distant retrograde orbit. The signal was re-acquired when the spacecraft came out from the Moon’s dark side. Shortly after, Orion shared views of the “pale blue dot” from 230,000 miles away.

“This is one of those days you’ve been thinking about and dreaming about for a long, long time,” said Zebb Scoville, NASA Flight Director. “This morning, we just saw the Earth set behind the moon as we just brought the next human-rated vehicle behind the moon.”

NASA Artemis Spacecraft Completes Lunar Flyby; Beams Back Images
Photo Credit: NASA

Closest Approach To The Moon

Orion was just 81 miles above the Moon’s surface when it made the crucial flyby. This will be the closest it will get to the Lunar surface during the Artemis I mission. The last time a spacecraft made such a close approach to the Moon was during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

If things go according to plan, the spacecraft will fly over 40,000 miles in the lunar orbit opposite the direction that the Moon revolves around Earth. After the flyby, Orion will move in a retrograde orbit for around six days before preparing for a journey back to Earth.

While the Orion spacecraft doesn’t have a crew onboard for this journey, it is carrying mannequins with sensors to help the space agency determine what astronauts will experience during the Artemis II mission which is slated to launch in less than two years.

Laying The Groundwork For Moon Base

The Artemis I mission will be laying the groundwork for upcoming Artemis missions. The marquee space agency aims to set up a sustainable human base on the Moon.

The Artemis II mission will ferry astronauts into the lunar orbit in 2023, while the Artemis III mission will be launched in 2024 or 2025.

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