NASA completes Artemis I Moon Mission as Orion Capsule returns to Earth before landing on Moon in 2025

NASA’s Orion capsule made a quick return from Moon Sunday, parachuting into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico to conclude a test flight that will clear the way for astronauts on their next flight to the Moon.

The capsule entered the atmosphere at Mach 32, or 32 times the speed of sound, and endured a return temperature of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius) before plunging west of Baja California near the island of Guadalupe. A Navy ship quickly moved in to recover the spacecraft and its silent occupants – three test dummies equipped with vibration sensors and radiation monitors.

NASA praising the near-perfect plunge and dive, as well as congratulations from Washington..

“I was overwhelmed,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson from Mission Control in Houston. “This is an extraordinary day… It is a historic day because we are now returning to space — deep space — with a new generation.”

The space agency needs a successful splash to stay on track for the next one onion a flight around the Moon, targeted for 2024 with four astronauts to be revealed early next year. That will be followed by a two-man Moon landing as early as 2025 and eventually a sustainable Moon base. The long-term plan would be to launch an expedition to Mars in the late 2030s.

Astronauts last landed on the Moon 50 years ago. After landing on December 11, 1972, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt of Apollo 17 spent three days exploring the Taurus-Littrow valley, the longest stay in the Apollo era. They are the last of the 12 Moonwalkers.

Since then, Orion was the first capsule to visit the Moon, launching aboard NASA’s massive new Moon rocket from Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 16. It was the first flight of the Artemis Moon program. new NASA, named after the mythical twin sister of Apollo.

“From Tranquility Base to Taurus-Littrow to the calm waters of the Pacific, the latest chapter in NASA’s journey to the Moon is coming to an end. Orion returns to Earth,” announced Mission Control commentator Rob Navias.

While no one was on board the $4 billion test flight, NASA managers were thrilled to do the rehearsal, especially after years of flight delays and tight budgets. break. Fuel leaks and storms conspired to further delay the late summer and fall.

In an Apollo comeback, NASA threw a huge party at Houston’s Johnson Space Center on Sunday, with employees and their families gathering to watch the broadcast about their hometown of Orion. Next door, the visitor center has thrown a hit to the public.

Bringing Orion back intact after a 25-day flight is a top goal of NASA. With a return speed of 25,000 mph (40,000 kph) — significantly faster than the return from low Earth orbit — the capsule utilizes a new, advanced heat shield that has never been seen before. previously tested in space flight. In order to reduce gravity or G-load, it plunges into the atmosphere and briefly flies out, while helping to determine the splash area.

Officials note that all of that worked out spectacularly, allowing Orion to return safely.

Mission manager Mike Sarafin said: “I don’t think any of us could have imagined such a successful mission.

Further tests will be conducted after Orion returns to Kennedy at the end of the month. If testing of the capsule finds nothing unusual, NASA will announce its first lunar crew in early 2023 amid considerable noise, chosen from among 42 active US astronauts stationed at Houston’s Johnson Space Center.

“People are worried, we know it,” Vanessa Wyche, Johnson’s director, told reporters. Nelson added: “The American people, like (with) the original seven astronauts in the days of Mercury, will want to know about these astronauts.”

The capsule splashed down more than 300 miles (482 km) south of the original target area. Forecasts calling for rough seas and high winds off the Southern California coast prompted NASA to relocate.

Orion had traveled 1.4 million miles (2.25 million km) when it launched to the Moon and then entered a wide orbit, swooping down for nearly a week before returning home.

It came within 80 miles (130 km) of the Moon twice. At the furthest point, the capsule is more than 268,000 miles (430,000 km) from Earth.

Orion has shown back beautiful pictures not only of the gray Moon, but also of the home planet. As a farewell shot, the capsule reveals a crescent-shaped Earth – Earthrise – leaving the mission team speechless.

Astronomer Daniel Brown of Nottingham Trent University said the many achievements of the flight demonstrate NASA’s ability to send astronauts to the next Artemis Moonshot.

“This is the memorable end of a wonderful and important journey for NASA’s Orion spacecraft,” Brown said in a statement from the UK.

The moon has never been hotter. Just hours before Sunday, a spacecraft launched a rocket towards the Moon from Cape Canaveral. The lunar lander belongs to ispace, a Tokyo company that intends to develop economically there. Meanwhile, two US companies already have lunar landers launching early next year.

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