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The Artemis I mission – a 25½-day uncrewed test flight around the moon to pave the way for future astronaut missions – came to a pivotal conclusion when NASA’s Orion spacecraft made a successful ocean splash on Sunday.
The spacecraft completed the final part of its journey by approaching the thick inner layer of Earth’s atmosphere after traveling 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers) between the moon and Earth. It splashed into the Pacific Ocean off Baja California, Mexico, at 12:40 p.m. ET on Sunday.
This last step was one of the most important and dangerous legs of the mission.
But after it hit the ground, NASA commentator Rob Navias, who ran Sunday’s broadcast, called the reentry process “textbook.”
“I’m overwhelmed,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said on Sunday. “This is an extraordinary day.”
The capsule is currently bobbing in the Pacific Ocean, where it will stay until Sunday evening while NASA collects additional data and conducts some tests. This process, like the rest of the mission, aims to ensure that the Orion spacecraft is ready to fly the astronauts.
According to Melissa Jones, this mission’s rescue director, the capsule is expected to spend less time in the water, perhaps less than two hours, during the crewed mission.
A fleet of rescue vehicles await, including boats, a helicopter, and a US Navy ship called the USS Portland.
“It was a challenging mission,” NASA’s Artemis I mission manager Mike Sarafin told reporters Sunday evening. “And this is what mission success looks like.”
The spacecraft was traveling at about 32 times the speed of sound (24,850 miles per hour, or about 40,000 kilometers per hour) when it hit the air—so fast that the compression waves caused the exterior of the vehicle to heat up to about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees). Centigrade).
“The next big test is the heat shield,” Nelson said in a phone call to CNN on Thursday, referring to the barrier designed to protect the Orion capsule from the unbearable physics of re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.
The extreme heat also caused the air molecules to ionize, creating a buildup. Plasma causing a 5½ minute communication interruption, according to this To Artemis I flight director Judd Frieling.
INTERACTIVE: Follow Artemis’ path to and from the Moon
When the capsule reached about 200,000 feet (61,000 meters) above the Earth’s surface, it performed a rolling maneuver that briefly sent the capsule upward, much like bouncing a rock on the surface of a lake.
There are several reasons to use the jump maneuver.
“Jumping the inlet gives us a consistent landing site that supports astronaut safety because it allows ground crews to coordinate rescue efforts better and faster,” said Joe Bomba, Lockheed Martin’s Orion aerothermal lead for aerospace sciences. Declaration. Lockheed is NASA’s primary contractor for the Orion spacecraft.
According to Lockheed, referring to the overwhelming forces humans experience during spaceflight, “By dividing the heat and power of reentry into two events, the jump entry also offers benefits such as reducing the g-forces that astronauts are subjected to.”
The jump maneuver was followed by another communication interruption that lasted about three minutes.
The capsule slowed violently as it began its final descent, losing thousands of miles per hour before its parachutes opened. When it crashed, Orion was supposed to travel about 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour). But NASA officials didn’t have a definitive jump rate yet at the 3:30 p.m. ET press conference.
Howard Hu, NASA’s Orion Program manager, observed that the temperature in the Orion crew cabin maintains warm temperatures between 60 degrees and 71 degrees Fahrenheit based on the data.
While there were no astronauts on this test mission — only one several mannequins equipped to collect data and and Snoopy baby – NASA chief Nelson stressed importance to show that the capsule can be returned safely.
The space agency’s plans are to turn the Artemis lunar missions into a program that will send astronauts to Mars, this journey will have a much faster and more daring re-entry process.
During this mission, Orion carried the capsule about 1.3 million miles (2 million kilometers) on a path to a distant lunar orbit. farther than any spacecraft designed to carry humans Have you ever traveled?
A secondary purpose of this mission was for Orion’s service module, a cylindrical link at the bottom of the spacecraft, to deploy 10 small satellites. But at least four of these satellites failed after being launched into orbit; Japan and one NASA’s own payload It was intended to be one of the first small satellites to explore interplanetary space.
Caught during spacecraft travel stunning pictures During the Earth and two close passes, images of the lunar surface and a fascinating “world rise”
Nelson said that if he ever had to give the Artemis I mission a letter grade, it would be an A.
“Not an A-plus, because we expect things to go wrong. And the good news is that when things go wrong, NASA knows how to fix them,” Nelson said. But “if I’m a teacher, I would give him an A plus.
With the success of the Artemis I mission, NASA will now examine the data collected from this flight and try to select a crew for the Artemis II mission, which can take off in 2024. The crew announcement is expected in early 2023, NASA officials said. He said Sunday afternoon.
Artemis II will aim to send astronauts into a similar orbit as Artemis I, flying around the moon but landing on its surface.
Artemis III mission, at the moment Scheduled for 2025 launchWaiting Putting the boots back on the moon and NASA officials said would include the first woman and the first person of color to reach such a milestone.
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