It finally returned to our planet. It did so after almost 26 days circling the Moon. And so concludes NASA’s Artemis I mission: with the successful return of the Orion spacecraft. What’s next?
Orion traveled more than 2 million kilometers around the Moon. It is the longest space trip without the need to connect the aircraft to a space station. It landed in the Pacific Ocean, west of Baja California. It happened around 17:00 GMT this December 11. It left the Kennedy Space Center in Florida last November 16.
“The splashdown of the Orion spacecraft occurs 50 years to the day that Apollo 17 landed on the Moon. It is the crowning achievement of Artemis 1. It was the launch of the most powerful rocket on the planet. It is a major step forward in the lunar exploration of the Artemis Generation.” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
During its flight, Orion twice flew over the Moon. It made a trip to a distance of 270,000 miles from Earth. That is 1,000 times the distance between the International Space Station and Earth orbit.
On return, the aircraft reached temperatures similar to the surface of the Sun, close to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The parachutes slowed down. It went from 40,000 kilometers per hour to 30 when it fell into the sea.
Now, manned ships
“The successful return of the Orion spacecraft is the first step. We have our next mission on the horizon. And it will carry crew to the Moon for the first time, as part of the next era of lunar exploration,” said Jim Free. He is associate administrator of NASA.
In 2024, NASA is expected to send up the Artemis II mission. And a year later, Artemis III, with the first human crew to touch lunar soil since 1972. With this last mission, the United States hopes to send the first woman to the Moon. Also the first black person. Exploration of Earth’s natural satellite is one of the goals. But the main one is to use these expeditions as a platform to travel to Mars.