January 30, 2023

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Orion enters an orbit around the Moon that allows it to set a record distance

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after ten days Launching from the Kennedy Space CenterOn Friday, NASA’s Orion spacecraft entered distant orbit around the moon, completing another major milestone in a mission that space agency officials say is… It went very well so far.

Orion’s thrusters fired at 4:52 p.m. ET for a minute and a half, putting the craft into an orbit 40,000 to 50,000 miles above the lunar surface. This orbit will put Orion on course to break the record for the furthest distance from Earth traveled by “a spacecraft designed to carry humans into deep space and return safely to Earth.” NASA said in a statement that Apollo 13 set the current record of 248,655 miles in 1970.

Gemini should get over that at 7:42 AM ET on Saturday. NASA said the spacecraft is expected to reach its maximum distance of more than 270,000 miles from Earth at 4:13 p.m. ET on Monday.

The distant orbit, which requires little fuel to maintain, will allow Orion to test its systems to see how the vehicle performs. However, the orbit is so wide that the spacecraft will only complete half of its orbit in six days before it begins its journey back to Earth.

The flight, without any astronauts on board, is the first step NASA’s Artemis Programwhich seeks to return astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time since the Apollo missions of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Using cameras mounted on the outside of the spacecraft, Orion was, too He broadcasts the dramatic images again And live video from her trip. Including stunning images of Earth, seen suspended in the distance, more than 200,000 miles away, in the vast, inky darkness of space.

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If the current mission, known as Artemis I, goes well, NASA is planning a second flight, this time with astronauts on board, as soon as 2024. That mission, known as Artemis II, will also orbit the moon, With a fall with humans to come next.

“The mission continues to move forward as we planned, and our ground systems, operations teams, and Orion spacecraft continue to exceed expectations,” Mike Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis I mission manager, said this week. “And we’re still learning along the way about this new deep spacecraft.”

said the Space Launch System Rocket, more powerful than even the Apollo-era Saturn V, and performed so well that the results were “eye-popping”. However, its massive thrust caused some damage to the mobile launch tower, including blowing off doors from the tower’s elevator. But overall, Sarafin said, “the structure itself has held up pretty well.”

After Orion completes half an orbit around the Moon, it will catapult itself around the Moon toward home.

One of the main tests will come when the spacecraft re-hires Earth’s atmosphere, traveling at about 25,000 miles per hour. Friction with the dense air results in temperatures of up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The spacecraft is expected to launch into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego on December 11th.

Although there are no actual astronauts aboard the Artemis I mission, there is a mannequin named Moonikin Campos sitting in the Orion spacecraft commander’s seat. It is equipped with a suit and sensors to provide feedback on what the flight will be like for future astronauts.

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The seat has two sensors that record acceleration and vibration. The spacesuit contains sensors to record radiation levels.

The name “Moonikin” was chosen through a public competition. Campos was chosen in honor of Arturo Camposa former NASA engineer who played a key role during the recovery The Apollo 13 spacecraft after the mission went awry.

Two mannequin torso ride along. Named Zohar and Helga, they are made of materials that NASA says “mimic human bones, soft tissues, and organs of an adult female.” (It is believed that women are more sensitive to radiation exposure than men.)

They have sensors to measure radiation as well. The Zohar has a radiation vest, but Helga doesn’t.