NASA’s Artemis I mission successfully delivers unmanned Orion capsule into proximity with Moon in landmark technology test
NASA’s Artemis I mission has arrived at the Moon, with its uncrewed Orion spacecraft passing 130 km above the lunar surface on Monday.
At 12:44 GMT Orion began an engine burn that took it through the planned powered flyby. The capsule was out of communications with Earth for 34 minutes as it passed over the far side of the Moon.
As it emerged from the other side of the lunar orb Orion took a picture of the Earth, appearing as a small blue dot in the vastness of space.
Nasa flight director Zebulon Scoville called the mission a “game changer” as it paves the way for further Artemis missions and humans’ return to the Moon’s surface.
“This morning we just saw the Earth set behind the Moon as we take the next human-rated vehicle around the moon, preparing to bring humans back there within a few years,” he said.
Orion is next scheduled to pass into a lunar orbit for six days, after which it is to return ot Earth for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean scheduled for 11 December.
The Artemis II mission, scheduled for 2024, is planned to take humans through a similar flight path, after which Artemis III is intended to bring humans to the surface for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972.
Three mannequins strapped into the Orion module carry sensors that are measuring conditions to ensure they are safe for future human passengers.
In addition to the Orion module Artemis I tested the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the most powerful ever built, which launched Orion into space last Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, following years of delays.
NASA wants to eventually take humans further afield, to destinations such as Mars.