The Orion spacecraft made its first close flyby of the Moon on Monday, November 21, approaching 81 statute miles (130 kilometers) from the lunar surface.
As the Artemis 1 mission’s uncrewed spacecraft flew over the far side of the Moon, Orion’s Orbital Maneuvering System engine fired for 2 minutes and 30 seconds to successfully place the capsule into the desired orbit for the mission, called Far Retrograde Orbit around the Moon.
“This burn puts Orion into orbit around the Moon, and is the largest propulsive event yet, as Artemis chases the Moon,” Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin said in a Monday briefing.
The engine burn, called outward powered hover burn, is the first of two maneuvers needed to enter the so-called deep retrograde orbit around the Moon.
The next burn will take place on Friday, November 25, using engines from the European Service Module. Orion will stay in this orbit for about a week to test the spacecraft systems.
The distant retrograde will bring Orion 40,000 miles beyond the Moon. Orion’s greatest distance from Earth will be Monday, November 28 at 3:05 p.m. CST (0905 UTC) at over 268,500 miles.
Orion’s greatest distance to the Moon will be Friday, November 25 at 3:53 p.m. CST (2153 UTC) at over 57,250 miles. This is the farthest distance a human-rated spacecraft has flown beyond the Moon.
Here is a good description of Orion’s unusual orbit throughout the mission:
I never came close to understanding orbital mechanics
What a fascinating return trip for Orion
— Chris Combs (@DrChrisCombs) November 22, 2022
Sarafin said mission teams had the opportunity to review the performance of the SLS rocket, spacecraft and ground systems for the Artemis I mission.
The results, he said, were “appetizing,” meaning everything met or exceeded expectations.
“We saw nothing on the rocket or the spacecraft that would cause us to question any part of the mission,” Sarafin said.
“It’s largely a green light flight. The vehicle systems are very clean, but we’re working on a few ‘funnies’ – nothing that constrains the mission, just that some things worked differently. than planned. Overall, the mission continues to proceed as planned.”
During the flyby, cameras aboard the spacecraft returned stunning images of the Moon, with Earth in the distant background.
Earthset. 🌎@NASA_Orion captured this shot of the Earth ‘setting’ as the spacecraft passed close to the Moon. Nearly 270,000 miles (430,000 km) away, #Artemis I will soon exceed Apollo 13’s record distance from Earth in a spacecraft designed to carry astronauts. pic.twitter.com/lvDS7nGPRo
—NASA (@NASA) November 21, 2022
“An earthrise of our pale blue dot and its 8 billion human inhabitants is now in sight,” Mission Control commentator Sandra Jones said on NASA television as images were received from Orion.
“We didn’t expect to get live video like we did,” said Judd Frieling, director of ascent and entry flights for Artemis 1, “but as part of testing the system, we We’ve seen how far we can push the bandwidth. From now on, when we have the bandwidth available, we’ll be broadcasting the mission live stream.
The Artemis 1 flight launched on November 16 and is the first mission in 50 years where a human-powered spacecraft has been on the Moon. NASA hopes to use Orion, SLS and other yet-to-be-built hardware, such as a SpaceX-built lunar lander, to send astronauts back to the lunar surface.
This first lunar landing could be launched as early as 2025. Artemis 1 is testing much of the technology that will be needed for future flights.
Frieling also said Orion would fly by the Moon again on December 5, and lighting should be good enough for Orion’s cameras to capture images of Apollo landing sites.
While this is an exciting proposition, don’t expect to see good views of the material left behind. Orion won’t be as close as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter – which has taken high-resolution views of the Apollo sites before – and Orion’s cameras aren’t as good as LRO’s.
Orion will return to Earth approximately 25 days after launch, and Orion’s splashdown is currently scheduled for December 11.
Using cameras from the European Service Module’s solar panels, engineers were able to assess Orion’s exterior and found it to be in excellent condition. Therefore, Orion has already been allowed to return.
Sarafin said on December 5 the teams will meet to decide when and where to deploy the recovery forces, a joint effort between the US Navy and NASA.
The recovery area will be in the Pacific Ocean, but the exact landing site will be decided based on a whole host of factors, the most important of which is the weather.
This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.