NASA’s “mightiest” rocket, Orion, is on its way to the Moon in a historic uncrewed test flight, paving the way for NASA to send humans back to the Moon for the first time in 50 years. About nine hours into the journey, the spacecraft shared incredible photos of Earth.
The science and other stuff to know
Orion launched on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on November 16, beginning its nearly 26-day uncrewed test flight around the Moon, known as the Artemis 1 mission. The spacecraft sent breathtaking photos of Earth about nine hours into the flight. The spacecraft was more than 92,000 kilometers (57,000 miles) from Earth at the time, roughly one-fifth the distance to the Moon.
In addition to the “selfie” image featured in the thumbnail, NASA released another photo showing inside Orion. A mannequin named “Commander Moonikin Campos” sits in the commander’s chair in the photo, wearing an Orion survival system suit. Campos is outfitted with sensors that will aid NASA in gathering data for future flights with astronauts.
Orion capsule will spend five days flying toward the Moon. On Nov. 21, it’ll complete an outbound flyby power burn for its closest approach to the Moon’s surface and then spend several days settling into lunar orbit before reversing its course. The 25-day mission will conclude on December 11.
This is the first time since the final Apollo mission in 1972 that a spacecraft designed to carry humans to the Moon has captured a view of Earth.
“This view of Earth captured from a human-rated spacecraft not seen since 1972 during the final Apollo mission some 50 years ago,” NASA spokesperson Sandra Jones said. “The views of our blue marble in the blackness of space now capturing the imagination of a new generation — the Artemis generation.”
— Orion Spacecraft (@NASA_Orion) November 16, 2022
While only Commander Moonikin Campos occupies the capsule during the test flight, this mission paves the way for the first flight with a human crew.
NASA is expected to launch Artemis 2 mission in 2024, which will supersede Artemis 1. At that time, Orion will take humans back to the Moon for the first time in 50 years. This mission, however, will not land astronauts on the Moon’s surface. In 2025, the space agency will launch a third mission, Artemis 3, which will see humans land on the Moon’s surface.