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The Orion spacecraft, at the center of NASA’s historic Artemis I mission, reached its furthest distance from Earth Monday afternoon, breaking the record for the maximum distance ever traveled by a spacecraft designed to transport humans.
The space agency confirmed on Monday evening that the Orion capsule had reached the midpoint. From its uncrewed mission around the Moon, about 270,000 miles (434,523 kilometers) from Earth. This is 40,000 miles (64,374 kilometers) beyond the far side of the moon.
The previous record for the farthest distance traveled by a human-rated spacecraft, Apollo 13 mission in 1970. With actual humans on board, this mission spanned 248,655 miles (400,171 kilometers) from our home planet.
Purpose of the Artemis I mission, started Kennedy Space Center in Florida On November 16, it will test the Orion capsule to its limits, ensuring the vehicle is ready to safely house humans. The trial run is part of NASA’s broader Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time since the 1970s.
There were a few glitches – or “funny” as Artemis I Task Manager Michael Sarafin refers to them in this post.
One problem involved Orion’s star tracker, a system that uses a map of the cosmos to tell engineers on the ground how the spacecraft is orientated. Some data readings did not return as expected, but NASA officials attributed this to a learning curve that comes with operating a new spacecraft.
“We worked on this and great leadership was provided by the Orion team,” Sarafin said. He said at the November 18 press conference.
Orion Program Manager Howard Hu told reporters Monday evening that overall, the spacecraft’s performance was “outstanding”. The spacecraft is performing above expectations in some respects, such as generating about 20% more power than it actually needs. he took note.
Sarafin added that things are going so well that NASA is working to add seven additional mission targets designed to gather more data on the spacecraft’s capabilities and performance.
The spacecraft is expected to return to the moon on Thursday before firing up its engines to exit its current orbit and return to Earth. Orion capsule on its way to crash into the Pacific Ocean Off the coast of California on December 11.
“Artemis I has been an outstanding achievement and has completed a series of history-making events,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said on Monday. “Since launch, we’re getting back critical data and there’s still a lot to do. … The biggest test after launch is re-entry because this heat shield is operating at around 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius), nearly half the sun’s heat, and at 32 times the speed of sound. We want to know when it’s coming (almost 40,000 kilometers per hour).”
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Sarafin added that until the spacecraft returns safely to Earth, there is always risk in the game. He noted that the risk of hitting orbital debris is an ever-approaching threat that will not disappear until the capsule re-enters Earth’s atmosphere. And even after that, Orion must safely deploy the parachutes to allow a gentle splash of water into the ocean.
After landing, a NASA rescue ship will be waiting nearby to take the Orion capsule to safety.
If the Artemis I mission is successful, NASA will try to select a crew to fly on the Artemis II mission, which could take off in 2024. Artemis II will aim to send astronauts into a similar orbit as Artemis I. The moon does not land on its surface. Artemis III mission, at the moment Scheduled for 2025 launchIt is expected to eventually re-boot to the Moon, and NASA officials said it would include the first woman and the first person of color to reach such a milestone.
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