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NASA’s Orion capsule lands on the moon en route to a record-breaking lunar orbit | POT

NASA marked another crucial milestone in its first manned-capable lunar mission in 50 years early Monday with Artemis 1’s Orion capsule “buzzing” the moon as it came closest to the lunar surface for the 25-day spaceflight.

The pass, 81 miles above the far side of the moon, was followed by a critical engine firing to set the spacecraft on a path to a wide lunar orbit 40,000 miles ahead, the farthest a human-friendly vehicle can go. have traveled from Earth.

Mission managers in Houston had to wait 30 minutes to find out if the engine ignition was successful due to a technical communications blackout while on the far side of the moon. But NASA officials tweeted confirmation soon after, revealing that Orion’s flyby speed of 5,102 mph had increased another 580 mph as a result of the burn.

So NASA released close-up images of the moontaken by Orion as it approached, and a still image showing the capsule, the moon, and the earth in the same frame.

The pass came 53 years since three astronauts aboard Apollo 12, the second of NASA’s six moon landings between 1969 and 1972, left lunar orbit to return home. the agency’s historical office said.

It’s the first time a capsule has visited the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972, and it represented a big milestone in the $4.1 billion test flight that began last Wednesday after Orion’s launch.

Orion’s flight path on Monday, some 232,000 miles from Earth, took it over the landing sites of Apollo 11, 12 and 14, humanity’s first three lunar landings.

The moon got bigger and bigger in the video that was broadcast earlier in the morning, as the capsule closed the last few thousand miles.

“This is one of those days where you’ve been thinking and talking about for a long, long time,” said flight director Zeb Scoville as he waited to resume contact.

As the capsule emerged from behind the moon, onboard cameras sent back an image of Earth, a blue dot surrounded by black.

Orion needed to slingshot around the moon to pick up enough speed to enter the wide, twisting lunar orbit.

This weekend, Orion will break NASA’s distance record for a spacecraft designed for astronauts: nearly 250,000 miles from Earth, set by Apollo 13 in 1970.

And it will keep going, reaching a maximum distance from Earth next Monday at almost 270,000 miles.

The capsule will spend about a week in lunar orbit before returning home. A splashdown in the Pacific is planned for December 11.

Orion does not have a lunar lander. A landing will not occur until NASA astronauts on Artemis 3, including the first woman to walk on the moon, make an attempt scheduled for 2025 on SpaceX’s Starship HLS (human landing system). However, before that, astronauts will be strapped to Orion for a orbit around the moon starting in 2024.


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