Hey there space fans! It’s time to celebrate a major milestone for NASA’s Artemis program. The Orion spacecraft has successfully completed its Artemis I flight test, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean after a record-breaking mission that took it on a path around the Moon and back to Earth.
“The splashdown of the Orion spacecraft – which occurred 50 years to the day of the Apollo 17 Moon landing – is the crowning achievement of Artemis I,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “From the launch of the world’s most powerful rocket to the exceptional journey around the Moon and back to Earth, this flight test is a major step forward in the Artemis Generation of lunar exploration.”
During the mission, Orion performed two lunar flybys, coming within 80 miles of the lunar surface. At its farthest distance from Earth, Orion traveled nearly 270,000 miles, more than 1,000 times farther than the International Space Station. The spacecraft endured temperatures about half as hot as the surface of the Sun during re-entry and slowed from nearly 25,000 mph to about 20 mph for its parachute-assisted splashdown.
“With Orion safely returned to Earth we can begin to see our next mission on the horizon which will fly crew to the Moon for the first time as a part of the next era of exploration,” said Jim Free, NASA associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. “This begins our path to a regular cadence of missions and a sustained human presence at the Moon for scientific discovery and to prepare for human missions to Mars.”
Orion has now returned to shore, where technicians will offload the spacecraft and transfer it back to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Once at Kennedy, teams will open the hatch and unload several payloads, including Commander Moonikin Campos, the space biology experiments, Snoopy, and the official flight kit.
Congratulations to the NASA team and all those involved in the Artemis I mission! This is a huge step forward for the Artemis program and for human space exploration. Here’s to many more successful missions to come.