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Artemis 1’s Orion Spacecraft is Almost 275,000 Miles From Earth

Artemis 1’s Orion Spacecraft is Almost 275,000 Miles From Earth

The pictures show the far side of the moon.

Ten days after launching from the Kennedy Space Center, NASA’s Orion spacecraft is now orbiting around the moon.

Orion’s thrusters fired at 4:52 p.m. Eastern time for a 1½ minutes, putting the craft into an orbit some 40,000 to 50,000 miles above the lunar surface. That orbit will place Orion on a path to break the record for the farthest distance from Earth traveled by “a spacecraft designed to carry humans to deep space and safely return to Earth.” The current record of 248,655 miles was set by Apollo 13 in 1970, NASA said in a statement.

Orion should surpass that at 7:42 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday. The spacecraft is expected to reach its maximum distance of more than 270,000 miles from Earth at 4:13 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, NASA said.

The distant orbit, which requires little fuel to maintain, will allow Orion to test its systems to see how the vehicle performs. The orbit is so vast, however, that the craft will complete only about half an orbit in six days before it begins its return flight to Earth.

The capsule, which is part of the Artemis program to return men to the moon, will fly about 40,000 miles (64,000 km) beyond the moon at its most distant point. This will set a new record, getting farther from Earth than any previous human-rated spacecraft.

The current mark of 248,655 miles (400,171 km) is held by NASA’s Apollo 13 mission, which wasn’t meant to travel that far. Apollo 13 looped around the moon rather than land on the body after an oxygen tank in the spacecraft’s service module failed in deep space.

Orion will break Apollo 13’s record on Saturday morning (Nov. 26), NASA officials said. But the capsule will continue putting Earth in its rear-view mirror for two more days, reaching a maximum distance of 272,515 miles (438,570 km) on Monday (Nov. 28).

Orion will spend a little less than a week in the DRO. The capsule will leave lunar orbit with an engine burn on Dec. 1, then start heading home to Earth. Orion will arrive here on Dec. 11 with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast, if all goes to plan.

It surpassed Apollo 13 by traveling over 250,000 miles from Earth:

Orion surpassed the distance record for a mission with a spacecraft designed to carry humans to deep space and back to Earth, at 7:42 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 26. The record was set during the Apollo 13 mission at 248,655 miles from our home planet. At its maximum distance from the Moon, Orion will be more than 270,000 miles from Earth Monday, Nov. 28.

Engineers also completed the first orbital maintenance burn by firing auxiliary thrusters on Orion’s service module at 3:52 p.m. for less than a second to propel the spacecraft at .47 feet per second. The planned orbital maintenance burns will fine-tune Orion’s trajectory as it continues its orbit around the Moon.

So far, the Artemis 1 mission has gone well, with only a few minor issues.

“In terms of overall systems failures, we haven’t seen a single thing on the rocket or on the spacecraft that would have caused us to question our reliability or our redundancy,” Mike Sarafin, NASA Artemis 1 mission manager, said at the most recent briefing about the mission Nov. 21.

At the time of that briefing, NASA said it was looking at two issues with the spacecraft, one involving the spacecraft’s star trackers and what Sarafin called “funny indications” on the power system on the service module, where one of eight units used to distribute power opened without being commanded to do so. Neither issue, he said, were “hard concerns or hard constraints” on the mission.

“We don’t fully understand what the system and the flight hardware is telling us, but we’ve got ample redundancy and we are recovering from these ‘funnies’ that we see,” he said.


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Colonel Travis | November 28, 2022 at 1:24 pm

Why do these photos of the moon look like we’re still using cameras from the late 60s?

    Because they have a very limited amount of power and space for little things like cameras on spacecraft, and anything that isn’t actually mission necessary has to make do with leftovers.

    The purpose of this spacecraft is not to take ultra-high-def pictures to look pretty for the news, its to take men back to the moon. This is simply one of its incremental tests of its capability before the actual real mission.

      Ironclaw in reply to Olinser. | November 28, 2022 at 2:40 pm

      It’s not like high quality digital cameras weigh much, are very large or require much power. Even an android phone or would do better.

      As for taking pretty pictures, they damn well better. I still fail to see what we gain from wasting so much in resources for something that was done a half century ago. We don’t even get the technological benefits we reaped from the previous time.

        Olinser in reply to Ironclaw. | November 28, 2022 at 2:53 pm

        People that say this don’t seem to understand what’s actually involved in getting long-distance high definition pictures, and are dramatically under-estimating the distance from the spacecraft to what they are photographing.

        Your ‘high-quality digital camera’ on your android can’t get a particularly high quality picture of something that is a hundred miles away through the incredibly thick plastic that the windows on a spacecraft are made of. And you can’t just stick it outside the spacecraft, because it would immediately overheat and destroy itself (contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe overheating is a far bigger problem than freezing – because space is EMPTY, there is nowhere for heat to go).

        People that say things like this simply can’t grasp the distances involved in space travel and pictures.

        Try taking a picture of the nearest mountain with your vaunted android phone. You can’t make out very much detail on it, and that’s probably only around 10-20 miles away. Artemis never got closer than 80 miles to the surface of the moon.

        Look at the other pictures. The one with the camera outside the lander IS fairly high definition, you can literally see the bolts on the outside of the craft.

          artichoke in reply to Olinser. | November 30, 2022 at 11:11 am

          They could build a camera lens into a window. It’s not like the craft couldn’t be customized for the mission. It had to be, to fly that capsule unmanned.

          Why fuzzy? I suspect we’re having a look-see at what China put on the far side recently, and that would be classified info so we don’t want live hi-res videos released to the public.

      Colonel Travis in reply to Olinser. | November 28, 2022 at 3:01 pm

      Of course we can use better cameras. The pictures from Mars, which is 51 million miles farther than the moon, came back in high resolution.

      Just wondering why they aren’t used for this mission?

        Depending on which mission and which camera you are talking about, a lot of them are still scanning or push-broom type cameras.

        Basically you’re only grabbing a few pixels at a time so it can pack a comparatively giant optic into a few kg, but you’re trading resolution for time to shoot.

        I’m thinking the Orion cameras are full frame video cameras, so they have to grab everything at 30hz, and can’t afford a big optical component sticking a foot or so out of the skin of the capsule.

        Also bigger pixels gather light better, so if you’ve only got the photons to fill a 640*480 grid, you’ll just get a worse image by sticking a 8MP sensor in the slot.

        And you have to compress and send back all of those pixels too. So if you’re streaming down real time video, you may well compress the stream down to SD or even 320p to keep your bandwidth down as well.

          broomhandle in reply to Voyager. | November 28, 2022 at 8:41 pm

          That is what I remember: it’s about bandwidth. There is no retail consumer-friendly streaming HD internet service in deep space.

          Dimsdale in reply to Voyager. | November 29, 2022 at 9:10 am

          So store it!! SSDs are light, cheap and have great capacity. We aren’t dragging 100 pounds of Hasselblad cameras into space, or have to deal with radiation sensitive film. And with no atmospheric effects, resolution should be outstanding.

          How much did Shaun the Sheep weigh? How much space did the doll take up?

          That picture reminds me of the opening to “The Outer Limits” from the 60’s. Great show, by the way.

          artichoke in reply to Voyager. | November 30, 2022 at 11:12 am

          It’s not just a few kg. This is designed to be a manned capsule, with maybe around 500kg of human meat aboard plus life support, but that isn’t flying this time. There should be plenty of margin to put all sorts of cameras aboard.

      geronl in reply to Olinser. | November 28, 2022 at 9:52 pm

      This is supposed to be able to carry a crew, which are absent. I’m pretty sure there is room for some cameras

We should have a lunar base on the moon by now. But at least we are starting over.


    As I always say – WHY. For what purpose? What benefit does a ‘lunar base’ bring us, exactly?

    Because of the incredibly low gravity, humans CANNOT stay on the moon for more than a few months at a time without serious health repercussions. Because of that, any lunar base CANNOT be self sufficient, and every person will have to be rotated in and out on a very regular schedule.

    And as far as we know, there are no natural resources on the moon that we want or need. Basically the ONLY purpose a lunar base would serve would be to take advantage of its low gravity to construct satellites, or an interplanetary spacecraft that could be considerably more fragile without having to survive exit/re-entry from Earth’s atmosphere. But even then, because the moon has no natural resources, you’d still have to lift ALL components there from Earth anyway.

    There is absolutely nothing on the Moon that we need or want, that’s why no country has shown the slightest interest in going back there.

      gonzotx in reply to Olinser. | November 28, 2022 at 2:49 pm

      It can be an intermediary to launch to Mars

      Amd we really don’t know what’s down below the mantle of the Moon

      Nobody else went there because they couldn’t, no they didn’t want to… they couldn’t.

      chrisboltssr in reply to Olinser. | November 28, 2022 at 2:49 pm

      Why? Why put gas stations out in the middle of nowhere?

      It’s not just about exploring the moon. And spare me that it isn’t worth exploring the moon. We are still uncovering secrets on the Earth.

      The point of putting a lunar base on the moon is to not only expand our own technological expertise, but also to expand our reach out into the cosmos by having it also serve as a refueling station for ships.

        artichoke in reply to chrisboltssr. | November 30, 2022 at 11:15 am

        What if there’s something on the moon that could be used as rocket fuel? Then it would be incredibly useful to have that source in such a shallow gravity well. Like having a gas station out in the middle of nowhere, that’s next to an oil well and refinery, so you don’t have to truck the fuel in.

      There’s plenty on the moon we might want. We really don’t know what’s under the surface.
      But more than Mars, the moon could be a great launch point (and recovery point) for missions to exploit the asteroids. Launch from the moon is much less expensive in terms of fuel.

      On top of which, are you really such a materialist that nothing but Earth interests you? You have no desire to look beyond the horizon and ponder “I wonder what I’ll find”?

        Olinser in reply to GWB. | November 28, 2022 at 5:58 pm

        Oh, I wonder a lot, and I absolutely support Elon or even Bezos doing it.

        I have zero faith that under this government and this NASA that the program will be anything other than a massive corrupt boondoggle of ‘diverse’ incompetents and contractor payoffs that will spend massively more than their actual budget to accomplish mediocre goals years too late. Exactly as has happened with every other project that they’ve done for decades. They ALWAYS massively overrun the costs and deliver a fraction of what they promised years or even decades after it was promised, if they actually do it at all.

        I absolutely embrace a space race between Musk and Bezos. NASA and the government have no place in it.

      Voyager in reply to Olinser. | November 28, 2022 at 6:53 pm

      On a side note, we don’t actually know how humans handle lunar gravity. We know zero G causes problems that are not seem in 1G, and we expect that there is muscle wastage in low G environments, but we really do not know how the human body behaves in low, but not micro gravity.

      On lunar mining, it’s not really the low gravity that makes it valuable; it is that it is outside the main earth gravity well. Right now the major cost of orbital systems is the cost of lifting them into orbit, but a lunar launch has none of that. You can build and launch far heavier systems for far less energy from the Moon.

      What are those good for? Right now, no-one knows because there hasn’t been any way to build meaningful manufacturing in orbit. The Gigapress is something like 450 tons, and it is pretty small for a super heavy press, yet there’s no way you’re going to get that into low or micro gravity with any likely launch systems.

      Does gravity matter for press forging? Right now no-one really knows and there is no way to test it because you can’t lift a press forge of reasonable mass into orbit.

      Something like a lunar base with solid baseline automation means you can do things like build a press forge on the moon and see how gravity impacts it.

      And once you’ve got actual manufacturing going, it makes it far easier to do things like power satellites. Solar actually works in space, and a polar orbiting ring of them aligned to the day/night terminus could catch sunlight that completely bypasses Earth, and beam the energy down.

      Right now, it doesn’t really matter how cheap the satellites themselves are, because launch costs are so high, but lunar manufacturing can get a lot of that down. Instead of launching a whole satellite, you just launch the bucket of complex circuits, and build the larger, cruder stuff on site.

      And then there’s semiconductor substrates. We know that lattice defects are caused by the stressed of gravity on cooling bouls. We can probably improve them by drawing them in microgravity, and could potentially do compounds that just don’t work on earth.

      artichoke in reply to Olinser. | November 30, 2022 at 11:18 am

      I suspect the mission is largely to check out what the Chinese did on the far side a couple years ago. So we loop around the far side and come back (i.e. just doing half an orbit). There will be extremely accurate pictures no doubt, but they may not be released to the public. For one thing, we don’t want the Chinese to know what we know about what they have there.

You notice they never say what year Apollo 13 was

Think about where we might be today if we had kept going, not going woke or frightened of what I’m not sure.

We give billions upon billions to
That shit hole Ukraine instead of negotiating for peace? Why , cause the neocons are in charge and they think erroneously that they have Putin cornered. And it’s a great money laundering op. He wants the US to pay for their pensions lol. I have a crappy pension, how about we the American people get pensions before we pay for Ukraine’s pensions?

Just a thought…

The trans comedian leading ukraine, continues to DEMAND the money. I’m so sick of his face and lack of gratitude…

He must really have something on Biden.

I also hear we are building military bases all over Europe. I guess to abandon them with 80 billion worth of our equipment and the blood of our finest.

Trump entered zero wars… zero

I think Space exploration gives to creativity and hope.

It’s a good thing, I would like my grandchildren to have the opportunity to explore space, or explore the deep vast oceans…

    artichoke in reply to gonzotx. | November 30, 2022 at 11:35 am

    Recall that Hitler was also ridiculed. Little stiff guy with a funny mustache!
    Schicklgruber! Both were disrespected before coming into power. Seems they are of a type, and both work for the Nazis. Recall that most of the Nazis were rejects from polite society. Himmler the chicken farmer etc. No top university degrees there. Hitler may have been at least somewhat the mastermind of the Nazis then. Zelensky isn’t a mastermind of anything, he was placed. But he’s power-hungry, and apparently he’s very wealthy.

275,000 miles is a long way. But I’m not impressed. Biden’s mind is farther away from his body than that. The images, however, are much clearer than the foggy, fuzzy ones that Biden receives.

See? There is no dark side of the moon.

Agree a Android phone would be cheaper and better.
Other than it’s out there, there isn’t a great reason to go.

    artichoke in reply to Skip. | November 30, 2022 at 11:39 am

    It was better when NASA was doing such things, than when NASA was given a priority of Muslim outreach. Such agencies (and also NATO) never die, and if not properly directed they will be misdirected. This sounds like an appropriate NASA mission at least.