Orion Spacecraft Takes Celestial Selfies as it Sails Past the Moon
The Orion spacecraft sent back a series of selfies and photos of Earth just before it sailed past the Moon today.
Part of the Artemis 1 mission, the spacecraft took the selfie using a camera mounted on its solar array wing to perform a routine external inspection.
“On Friday, flight controllers used Orion’s cameras to inspect the crew module thermal protection system and European Service Module, the first of two planned external evaluations for the spacecraft,” writes NASA.
NASA also released close-up images of the Moon and a still showing the capsule, moon, and Earth in the same frame.
The space agency wanted to make sure that Orion had avoided any damage after flying through the section of Earth’s orbit where the majority of space junk resides.
A second inspection will be required before the spacecraft re-enters Earth’s atmosphere.
So Far, So Good
The Artemis 1 mission is going well with the Orion capsule successfully performing a critical course correction maneuver on Monday morning.
Ground stations on Earth temporarily lost contact with Orion today as the spacecraft passed behind the Moon. NASA’s Deep Space Network re-established contact 34 minutes later.
NASA’s capsule came within 80 miles of the lunar surface during its flyby as it travels toward distant retrograde orbit, its ultimate destination.
It is the first time a capsule has visited the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972 and represented a huge milestone in the $4.1 billion test flight that began last Wednesday after Orion launched.
This weekend, Orion will shatter NASA’s distance record for a spacecraft designed for astronauts – nearly 250,000 miles from Earth, set by Apollo 13 in 1970.
The distant retrograde orbit will take Orion 40,000 miles past the Moon before it returns to Earth. Orion’s greatest distance from the Earth will be Monday, November 28 when it will be more than 268,500 miles away.
Orion will return to Earth on December 11, traveling faster and hotter than any capsule designed for humans before it. It will reach a speed of 25,000 miles per hour (40,233 kilometers) and reach a temperature of 5,072 degrees Fahrenheit (2,800 Celsius).
Image credits: All photos courtesy of NASA.