NASA’s Orion Captures Earth and Moon from 268,563 Miles Away

NASA Artemis I mission

NASA’s Orion spacecraft has captured a photo of it with the Earth and Moon in the background from its maximum distance away: 268,563 miles. Orion has now traveled farther away from Earth than any other spacecraft built for humans.

The uncrewed Orion spacecraft, part of the Artemis I mission, reached the farthest distance it will travel from Earth yesterday and captured multiple photos of the Earth and Moon together up to that point, including one that NASA describes showing the moon appearing to eclipse Earth.

Orion views an eclipse of the Moon and Earth

This huge distance is the halfway point of the mission and NASA reports that the spacecraft remains in “healthy condition” as it continues its trip in a distant retrograde orbit.

Moon as seen from Orion spacecraft
On flight day 11, Orion’s optical navigation camera was used to capture this lunar image as the spacecraft is in distant retrograde orbit around the Moon. Orion uses the optical navigation camera to capture imagery of the Earth and the Moon at different phases and distances, providing an enhanced body of data to certify its effectiveness under different lighting conditions as a way to help orient the spacecraft on future missions with crew. | NASA Johnson

“Because of the unbelievable can-do spirit, Artemis I has had extraordinary success and has completed a series of history making events,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson says. “It’s incredible just how smoothly this mission has gone, but this is a test. That’s what we do – we test it and we stress it.”

Orion is now headed back to Earth where it will splash down in the Pacific Ocean, which is currently planned to take place on December 11. 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), both faster and hotter than any capsule designed for humans before it. A team is set to deploy today to train at the expected splashdown location to make final preparations for recovery.

Orion and the Moon
On flight day 12 of the 25.5-day Artemis I mission, a camera on the tip of one of Orion’s solar arrays captured the Moon as Orion travels in distant retrograde orbit around the Moon. | NASA Johnson

The mission can be followed in real-time from NASA’s Orion tracker as well as via live imagery that is being broadcast from the spacecraft.

Image credits: NASA Johnson, Artemis I mission