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.
On the 12th day of the #Artemis I mission, @NASA_Orion continued its distant retrograde orbit of the Moon and engineers conducted more planned tests on the star trackers – navigational equipment that helps the spacecraft determine its orientation: https://t.co/AQQzqijeyA pic.twitter.com/psMUrzfFcc
— NASA Artemis (@NASAArtemis) November 28, 2022
Why the Moon? There is still much to explore, and the focus for #Artemis is the lunar south pole. The region’s unique characteristics hold promise for scientific discoveries that could help us in venturing farther into the solar system.
— NASA_SLS (@NASA_SLS) November 27, 2022
Houston, we have a new record 🌎
On Saturday Nov. 26, at 8:40 a.m. ET, @NASA_Orion broke the record for the farthest distance traveled from Earth of a human-rated spacecraft. The record was previously held by Apollo 13 at 248,655 statute miles from Earth. Go Artemis! pic.twitter.com/B4hcXHJESC
— NASA's Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) November 26, 2022
The Far Side of the Moon – Shot by Artemis 1
Credit: NASA pic.twitter.com/Gpt17plKUD
— Black Hole (@konstructivizm) November 27, 2022
— ESA (@esa) November 28, 2022
After 12 days, @NASA_Orion is the first crew capsule to journey this far into space. Aboard, a few special passengers – @ShaunTheSheep, Commander Moonikin Campos, @Snoopy & @DLR_en & @IL_SpaceAgency #LunaTwins Helga & Zohar. Let’s see what they’re up to. #OrionESM – do you copy? pic.twitter.com/eF7B1I0mUG
— Human Spaceflight (@esaspaceflight) November 28, 2022
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