NASA’s Orion capsule returns to Earth after a test flight to the moon |  Space news

NASA’s Orion capsule returns to Earth after a test flight to the moon | Space news

NASA’s Orion capsule returns to Earth after a test flight to the moon | Space news

The unmanned capsule crashes into the Pacific Ocean, ending the historic 25-day mission.

NASA’s Orion capsule has crashed into the Pacific after an unmanned trip around the moon, completing the US space agency’s inaugural mission Artemis lunar program Today exactly 50 years after Apollo’s last moon landing.

The teardrop-shaped Orion capsule, carrying a simulated crew of three mannequins with sensors, crashed into the ocean off Mexico’s Baja California peninsula at 9:40 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (5:40 GMT) on Sunday. lunar astronauts would return to Earth safely.

To be origin saw it take a 20-minute plunge at 39,400 km/h (24,500 mph) into Earth’s atmosphere when it ejected its service module, exposing a heat shield that reached peak temperatures of nearly 2,760 degrees Celsius (5,000 degrees Fahrenheit).

“From Tranquility Base to Taurus-Littrow to the tranquil waters of the Pacific Ocean, the final chapter of NASA’s journey to the moon is coming to an end. Orion, back to Earth,” Rob Navias, a NASA commentator, said during a live stream.

The reentry marked the end of a 25-day mission and came less than a week after Orion passed about 127 km (79 mi) above the Moon in a fly past the moon.

About two weeks ago, the capsule reached its furthest point in space, nearly 434,500 km (270,000 miles) from Earth.

Apollo’s successor program

Launched Nov. 16 on NASA’s new mega-moon rocket from the Kennedy Space Center, the Orion voyage kicked off Apollo’s successor program, Artemis.

Named after Apollo’s mythological twin sister, the project aims to return astronauts to the lunar surface this decade and establish a durable base there as a springboard for future human exploration of Mars.

Coincidentally, the capsule’s reentry on Sunday occurred on the 50th anniversary of Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt’s Apollo 17 moon landing on Dec. 11, 1972.

They were the last of 12 NASA astronauts — all white males — to walk the moon from 1969 on a total of six Apollo missions.

The reentry marked the most critical stage of Orion’s journey, testing whether the newly designed heat shield can withstand atmospheric drag and safely protect the astronauts who would be aboard.

“It’s our number one goal,” NASA’s Artemis I mission manager Mike Sarafin said at a briefing last week. “There is no arc-jet or aerothermal facility here on Earth capable of replicating hypersonic reentry with a heat shield of this size.”

NASA’s Orion capsule returns to Earth after a test flight to the moon |  Space news
Although the Orion had no astronauts on board, it flew farther into space than any spacecraft had ever traveled before [File: Joe Rimkus Jr./Reuters]

Next flight scheduled for 2024

Although no one was on the $4 billion test flight, NASA executives were thrilled to wrap up the dress rehearsal, especially after so many years of flight delays and failed budgets.

Fuel leaks and hurricanes combined to add additional delays into the late summer and fall.

The next Orion flight around the moon is currently scheduled for 2024. Four astronauts will make the journey. This will be followed by a moon landing for two people in 2025.

The program is slated to send a woman and a person of color to the moon for the first time.

Nujoud Merancy, chief of NASA’s Houston office of reconnaissance missions, said putting people on the next flight “will heighten the excitement.”

“Nobody’s been to the moon in my life, right?” she said. “So this is the exploration that so many of us have dreamed about.”

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