Orion Is Back To Planet Earth

 The Orion capsule successfully splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on December 11, marking the end of the Artemis I mission. This mission's conclusion coincided with the 50th anniversary of Apollo 17's moon landing, which marked the final occasion that humans set foot on the Moon. Before the end of the decade, the Artemis program hopes to put humans on the moon's surface, including the first woman and person of color.

For the express goal of testing the Orion spacecraft in advance of future crewed trips, Artemis I was launched without crew. The spacecraft traveled farther in orbit during its 25.5-day stay than any other human-grade spacecraft in history. The testing were ongoing, and even re-entry was one of them: Orion is the first spaceship made specifically to transport people to carry out a skip entry maneuver.

The spacecraft bounded back out like a stone skipping on a lake as it entered the atmosphere's denser section. Then, with much less speed, it re-entered exactly where it needed to. This enabled the craft to accelerate from around 40,000 kilometers per hour (almost 25,000 miles per hour) to 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph).

Orion in the ocean off the Baja California coast. Image courtesy of NASA/Kim Shiflett

Orion has returned from the Moon and is already safely on Earth, according to a statement from Mike Sarafin, the mission manager for Artemis I. Splashdown proved that Orion can resist the harsh conditions of returning to Earth from lunar velocities and that we had successfully operated it in the deep space environment, where it exceeded our expectations.

Inside the USS Portland's well deck, Orion was successfully recovered. Image courtesy of NASA/Kim Shiflett

The capsule will be brought to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in the following days so that payloads can be removed. It will undergo extensive testing for a number of months to ensure that it is completely prepared to transport astronauts around the Moon as part of the Artemis II mission, which is anticipated to launch in late 2024.

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