NASA Orion capsule to reach farthest distance from Earth in lunar orbit
The spacecraft will travel 270,000 miles from Earth before it starts its long journey home with a return to the planet scheduled for Dec. 5.
Nov. 28 (UPI) -- NASA's Orion space capsule is set to reach the farthest distance from Earth on Monday and successfully complete the first half of a mission that aims to ultimately return American astronauts to the moon.
The spacecraft will travel 270,000 miles from Earth, marking the midpoint of its mission after initiating its distant retrograde orbit around the moon on Friday.
"We've largely completed the outbound leg toward the moon. We're going to have a period of time circling about the moon in distant retrograde orbit and then we're going to have the return leg," Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin said.
The craft will remain in orbit about 50,000 miles above the lunar surface for about a week to rigorously test its onboard navigation systems before it returns to Earth around Dec. 5.
In this image provided by NASA, the Earth and its moon are seen from NASA's Orion spacecraft on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (NASA via AP)
NASA is scheduled to provide an update on the Artemis 1 flight test at 5 p.m. Monday from Johnson Space Center in Houston, as Orion enters its 12th day in space.
NASA administrators indicated that the first leg of the mission was going according to plan following a minor setback in which mission control temporarily lost contact with the unmanned ship for 47 minutes on Wednesday.
"Good performance across the board on all our subsystems and systems, and certainly really happy with the performance," Orion program manager Howard Hu said Sunday night.
The Orion spacecraft is shown in the foreground of the moon during the fifth day of the Artemis I mission on November 20. (Photo/NASA)
Among the tests that Orion will perform are three orbital maintenance burns to keep the spacecraft on course. Engineers also planned to conduct a 24-hour examination of engine performance.
The Artemis 1 mission, which launched from Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 16, sets the stage for astronauts to return to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972, which will happen sometime in 2025 or 2026 as part of the Artemis 3 mission.
Next year, astronauts will be aboard the Artemis 2 capsule, which will circle the Earth and moon as part of the mission's first crewed test flight.
Artemis would ultimately pave the way for humans to reach Mars.Report a Typo