NASA’s Artemis 1 mission is in full swing, with the agency’s SLS megarocket blasting off earlier this morning from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The freshly launched Orion spacecraft is heading to the Moon, but it captured a sweet view of Earth before saying goodbye.
Orion will travel for 25 days, logging 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) beyond the Moon before returning to Earth. During the first few hours of its trip, Orion captured gorgeous views of our home planet glimmering in a soft shade of blue against the dark backdrop of space.
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center at 1:47 a.m. ET on Wednesday, November 16. About an hour after liftoff, Orion successfully separated from the rocket’s upper stage to initiate its solo trip to the Moon. The spacecraft performed a trans-lunar injection maneuver, which propels it on its path to the Moon and accelerates its speed to more than 22,600 miles per hour (36,370 kilometers per hour).
Following its separation from the propulsion stage, the Orion capsule began its coast towards the Moon. The spacecraft should reach the Moon by November 22, flying about 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the lunar surface. From there, Orion will use the gravitational force of the Moon to take it on an opposite, looping orbit that extends 40,000 miles (70,000 kilometers) from the Moon, according to NASA.
For its journey, Orion is equipped with 16 cameras to capture images of the Moon and Earth. The spacecraft has already put its cameras to use, turning back to look at our home planet as it begins its journey to our natural satellite. The photo was captured while Orion was about 58,000 miles (93,340 kilometers) away from Earth.
For the inaugural Artemis mission, NASA is sending an uncrewed Orion capsule to the Moon and back in anticipation of the space agency landing astronauts on the lunar surface no earlier than 2025. Although there are no people on board Orion, the spacecraft is carrying a manikin nicknamed Commander Moonikin Campos to collect data about flight accelerations and vibrations. Two torsos, Helga and Zohar, are also on board, and they’ll be assessing radiation risks, particularly, for women.
Orion will return to Earth on December 11, reentering through the atmosphere and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. Until then, we’ll be closely following the lunar capsule on its journey.
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