Space is important to us and that’s why we strive to provide you with the best coverage of the industry and Florida launches. Journalism like this takes time and resources. Please support him with a subscription here.
NASA’s Artemis I Orion capsule broke records last week as it continued its journey away from Earth and the Moon.
Over the weekend, the uncrewed Orion broke the record set by Apollo 13 in 1970 for the farthest a human-rated spacecraft had ever been from Earth as it cruised more than 250,000 meters.
On Monday, Orion marked the halfway point of its 25-day journey by reaching its furthest distance from Earth at nearly 270,000 miles.
Space Launch System: Mobile launcher damaged by ‘breathtaking’ Artemis rocket power at KSC
Orion: NASA’s Artemis I Orion spacecraft completes closest approach to moon
Next launch: Excellent weather for SpaceX’s launch of the Japanese lunar lander
Extraordinary success so far
“Artemis I was extraordinarily successful and completed a series of historic events,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told reporters on Monday. “Artemis builds on Apollo. Not only are we going further and coming back faster, but Artemis is paving the way to live and work in deep space in a harsh environment, to invent, create and ultimately continue with humans to Mars .”
According to Mike Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis I mission manager, the teams have already achieved about 25% of the Artemis I mission goals. The team is in the process of working on an additional 37% of the mission goals, according to Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, “because Orion works so well, (the mission management team) is adding new test objectives to the mission.”
Seven optional test targets will be added and monitored during the remainder of the Artemis I mission. The rest of the targets are expected to occur during the final phase of the mission during Orion’s entry, descent and landing on Earth.
Hiccups along the way
While Artemis I has excelled in most test objectives so far, the mission hasn’t been without its hitches.
In deep space, Orion is exposed to solar radiation. This radiation caused some problems with Orion’s on-board computers and part of its navigation and orientation system consisting of star trackers. Some of these systems restarted and errors that occurred were corrected with redundant systems on board Orion that took over during restarts.
There was also a period of unexpected loss of signal and communication with the spacecraft on Wednesday, November 23. Rick LaBrode, NASA flight director, told reporters on Monday that a misconfiguration of data rates between Orion and the ground receiving station that NASA uses to communicate with its spacecraft called the Deep Space Network caused the signal loss.
“(The Deep Space Network was) configured for a data rate that the vehicle was not configured for,” LaBrode said. “Through the troubleshooting process, we finally figured this out and then recovered once we got the data rate right.”
This issue has also since been resolved.
What’s left to come
Last week, Orion flew close to the far side of the moon, bringing it just 81 miles above the lunar surface. This maneuver used the moon’s gravity to help launch the spacecraft into a far retrograde orbit around the moon traveling in the opposite direction to the moon’s orbit around Earth.
Orion has just a few days left before leaving deep retrograde orbit on Thursday, December 1 at 4:30 p.m. ET to return to the moon for another gravity-assisted lunar flyby.
Orion will once again skirt the moon’s surface on Monday, December 5, and use the force of gravity to begin its journey back to Earth.
The return trip is expected to take around six days and end with a parachute-assisted drop into the Pacific Ocean. It is set to take place off the coast of California on Sunday, December 11.
Artemis I is just the first in a series of lunar missions NASA has planned to explore the lunar south pole over the next decade.
Artemis II will be a crewed variant of the Artemis I mission. Lasting approximately ten and a half days, a crew of four astronauts will again put Orion through its paces in deep space in 2024. this mission have not yet been decided, according to Sarafin.
NASA’s Artemis III mission is expected to land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface sometime before 2030. NASA hopes to use lessons learned on the moon as a stepping stone to landing humans on Mars one day.
Jamie Groh is a space reporter for Florida Today. You can contact her at JGroh@floridatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AlteredJamie.
#Orions #recordbreaking #space #journey #halfway