NASA’s successor mission to Apollo, Artemis, is a buzz. In its passage through the Moon’s orbit, the Orion spacecraft, the protagonist of the program’s first mission that promises to take us to the Moon again and, this time, to stay, has found a fantastic view of our small and elegant blue planet.
The science and other stuff to know
The Orion carries two inanimate crew members. One is a stuffed Snoopy, and the other is a mannequin named Moonikin Campo to honor the engineer Arturo Campos who was responsible for bringing the Apollo 13 astronauts back safely. These objects aboard the Orion carry sensors to monitor the surrounding activity.
On November 21, Orion successfully completed the planned approach to the Moon’s orbit. First, the spacecraft got as close as 130 km (81 miles) to the lunar surface. Then, after losing communication with Earth for over half an hour, Orion got back in touch and sent some beautiful photos showing Earth setting behind the Moon and rising above the horizon.
On November 25, the Orion spacecraft reached and surpassed the distance record for a vessel designed to carry crew members formerly of Apollo 13. Orion passed the distance of 434,500 kilometers (270,000 miles) from Earth on November 28, the maximum distance that will reach us before embarking on the return home to land in the Pacific on December 11.
At every moment of its incredible journey, Orion’s different cameras capture impressive images of the lunar surface, the Earth posing in the distance, suspended in the dark immensity, and the poetic composition of both.
In addition to the priceless scientific value of this titanic mission that marks our space conquest’s continuation, it also has great artistic and philosophical significance. Seeing ourselves through the eyes of Orion undeniably awakens a deep feeling of unity. After all, that pale blue dot is all we have.
All Artemis I tests will serve as a parameter for engineers to improve the propulsion, navigation, and piloting systems for the next mission in the program, Artemis II. This stage will have an orbital flyby similar to the one Orion is currently carrying out, but with the difference that it will carry living astronauts on board. So nothing should go wrong.