Artemis I – Flight Day 22: Orion Continues on its Journey Back to Earth

 

art001e002164 (Dec. 5, 2022): Cameras mounted on the crew module of the Orion spacecraft captured these views of the Moon’s surface. On flight day 20 of the Artemis I mission, the spacecraft made its second and final close approach to the Moon before its returned powered flyby burn.

Orion continues its journey back to Earth on day 22 of the 25.5-day Artemis I mission with flight controllers and engineers continuing to test the spacecraft and its systems in preparation for future flights with humans aboard.

Engineers conducted the second part of the propellant tank slosh development flight test, called propellant slosh, which is scheduled during quiescent, or less active, parts of the mission. Propellant motion, or slosh, in space is difficult to model on Earth because liquid propellant moves differently in tanks in space than on Earth due to the lack of gravity.

The test calls for flight controllers to fire the reaction control system thrusters when propellant tanks are filled to different levels. The reaction control thrusters used are located on the sides of the service module and can be fired individually as needed to move the spacecraft in different directions or rotate it into any position. Each engine provides about 50 pounds of thrust Engineers measure the effect the propellant sloshing has on spacecraft trajectory and orientation as Orion moves through space.

The test was first performed after the outbound flyby burn, and now again after the return flyby burn, to compare data at points in the mission with different levels of propellant onboard. Approximately 12,060 pounds of propellant has been used, which is 215 pounds less than estimated prelaunch, and leaves a margin of 2,185 pounds over what is planned for use, 275 pounds more than prelaunch expectations. The first prop slosh test objective was completed on day eight of the mission as it prepared to enter the distant retrograde orbit.

A few key milestones for Orion remain, including the entry system check outs and propulsion system leak checks on mission days 24 and 25, respectively.

Orion will travel at around 25,000 mph while reentering Earth’s atmosphere, testing the world’s largest ablative heat shield by reaching temperatures up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit – approximately half the heat of the sun. The heat shield is located at the bottom of the Orion capsule, measuring 16.5 feet in diameter, and sheds intense heat away from the crew module as Orion returns to Earth. The outer surface of the heat shield is made of 186 billets, or blocks, of an ablative material called Avcoat, a reformulated version of the material used on the Apollo capsules. During descent, the Avcoat ablates, or burns off in a controlled fashion, transporting heat away from Orion. Learn more about Orion’s heat shield in the Artemis I reference guide.

On Thursday, Dec. 8 at 5 p.m. EST, NASA will host a briefing to preview Orion’s return scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 11 and to discuss how the recovery teams are preparing for entry and splashdown. The briefing will be live on NASA TV, the agency’s website, and the NASA app.

Watch the latest episode of Artemis All Access for a look back at recent mission accomplishments and a preview of splashdown, including parachute information.

Just after 3 p.m. CST on Dec. 7, Orion was traveling 234,100 miles from Earth and 127,700 miles from the Moon, cruising at 820 miles per hour.

Images are sent down to Earth, and uploaded to NASA’s Johnson Space Center Flickr account and Image and Video Library. When bandwidth allows, views of the mission will be available in real-time via video stream.

Artemis I – Flight Day 21: Orion Leaves Lunar Sphere of Influence, Heads for Home

 

 

art001e002132 Dec. 5, 2022 A portion of the far side of the Moon looms large just beyond the Orion spacecraft in this image taken on the 20th day of the Artemis I mission by a camera on the tip of one of Orion’s solar arrays. The return powered flyby burn committed Orion to a return to Earth trajectory ahead of a splashdown off the coast of California on Dec. 11. At its closest point, Orion flew within 80 miles of the lunar surface.

Orion exited the lunar sphere of gravitational influence Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 1:29 a.m. CST for the last time on the Artemis I mission less than a day after completing the return powered flyby burn that put the spacecraft on course for splashdown Sunday, Dec. 11. Earth’s force of gravity is now the primary gravitational force acting on the spacecraft. 

Orion successfully performed the fourth return trajectory correction burn at 4:43 a.m. using the reaction control system thrusters. The burn lasted 5.7 seconds and changed the velocity of the spacecraft by 0.6 feet per second.

Flight controllers used Orion’s cameras to inspect the crew module thermal protection system and European Service Module, the second of three planned external spacecraft inspections. Teams conducted this survey early in the mission to provide detailed images of the spacecraft’s external surfaces after it had flown through the portion of Earth’s orbit containing the majority of space debris, and teams reported no concerns after reviewing the imagery. This second inspection during the return phase is being used to assess the overall condition of the spacecraft several days before re-entry.  

During both inspections, the Integrated Communications Officer, or INCO, commanded cameras on the four solar array wings to take a series of still images. Engineers and flight controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will review the imagery over the coming days. A final photographic survey will be conducted Friday as Orion continues its journey home. 

Teams responsible for recovering Orion after its splashdown are continuing preparations ahead of the Dec. 11 splashdown off the coast of California. The mission management team will determine the landing site location Thursday, Dec. 8. Listen to NASA’s Artemis I recovery director, Melissa Jones, talk about what it takes to fetch the Orion spacecraft from the Pacific Ocean at the end of the mission on “Houston We Have a Podcast.” 

Just after 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 6 , Orion was traveling 244,000 miles from Earth and about 79,000 miles from the Moon, cruising at 500 miles per hour. 

Images are sent down to Earth, and uploaded to NASA’s Johnson Space Center Flickr account and Image and Video Library. When bandwidth allows, views of the mission will be available in real-time via video stream. 

 

 

Artemis I – Flight Day 20: Orion Conducts Return Powered Flyby 

On Dec. 5, 2022, Orion completed the return powered flyby burn, committing the spacecraft to a Dec. 11 splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is on course for its return to Earth on Sunday, Dec. 11. The spacecraft made its second and final close approach to the Moon at 10:43 a.m. CST Monday, Dec. 5, just before its return powered flyby burn, passing 80.6 miles above the lunar surface.  

The burn, which used the spacecraft’s main engine on the European-built service module, lasted 3 minutes, 27 seconds, and changed the velocity of the spacecraft by about 655 mph (961 feet per second). It was the final major engine maneuver of the flight test.  

“Orion is heading home! Today the team achieved another momentous accomplishment, flying Orion just 80 miles from the surface of the Moon. The lunar flyby enabled the spacecraft to harness the Moon’s gravity and slingshot it back toward Earth for splashdown,” said Administrator Bill Nelson. “When Orion re-enters Earth’s atmosphere in just a few days, it will come back hotter and faster than ever before – the ultimate test before we put astronauts on board. Next up, re-entry!” 

Several hours before the lunar flyby, the spacecraft performed a trajectory correction burn at 4:43 a.m. CST using the reaction control system thrusters on the service module. The burn lasted 20.1 seconds and changed the velocity of the spacecraft by 1.39 mph (2.04 feet per second). 

The mission management team convened and polled “go” to deploy recovery assets off the coast of California ahead of Orion’s splashdown on Dec. 11. As soon as Orion splashes down, a team of divers, engineers, and technicians will depart the ship on small boats and arrive at the capsule. Once there, they will secure it and prepare to tow it into the back of the ship, known as the well deck. The divers will attach a cable to pull the spacecraft into the ship, called the winch line, and up to four additional tending lines to attach points on the spacecraft. The winch will pull Orion into a specially designed cradle inside the ship’s well deck and the other lines will control the motion of the spacecraft. Once Orion is positioned above the cradle assembly, the well deck will be drained and Orion will be secured on the cradle. 

 “Last week, we completed our final rehearsal with the USS Portland, which will be our recovery ship for Artemis I,” said Melissa Jones, landing and recovery director, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. “We had a great three days working with them to refine our procedures and integrate our teams so we can meet the objectives of recovering the Orion spacecraft.” 

Orion has used approximately 8,050 pounds of propellant during Artemis I, which is 180 pounds less than expected prelaunch. There are 2,075 pounds of margin available over what was planned for the mission, a 165-pound increase. 

As of 5:29 p.m. CST on Dec. 5, Orion was traveling 244,629 miles from Earth and 16,581 miles from the Moon, cruising at 668 mph. 

NASA Television and the agency’s website will resume live coverage of Orion’s journey at 9 a.m. Tuesday. 

As Orion leaves the lunar sphere of influence for the final time, watch NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn read the children’s book Goodnight Moon from space during his expedition aboard the International Space Station as part of a collaboration with Crayola Education to bring stories and the unique teachings of space to life with art and creativity. 

Images are sent down to Earth, and uploaded to NASA’s Johnson Space Center Flickr account and Image and Video Library. When bandwidth allows, views of the mission will be available in real-time via video stream. 

Artemis I – Flight Day 19: Orion Prepares for Close Lunar Flyby, Teams Examining Power Conditioning Issue

art001e002003 (Dec. 4, 2022) On the 19th day of the Artemis I mission, Orion captures Earth from a camera mounted on one of its solar arrays as the spacecraft prepares for the return powered flyby of the Moon on Dec. 5, when it will pass approximately 79 miles above the lunar surface.

Orion performed the second return trajectory correction burn on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 10:43 a.m. CST, using the auxiliary thrusters and increasing the spacecraft’s velocity by 1.16 mph (1.71 feet per second).  

Shortly after acquiring signal with the Deep Space Network’s Canberra ground station at 12:41 a.m. CST, Orion experienced an issue with a power conditioning distribution unit (PCDU), in which four of the latching current limiters responsible for downstream power were switched off. These lower-level switches connect to the propulsion and heater subsystems. Teams confirmed the system was healthy and successfully repowered the downstream components. There was no interruption of power to any critical systems, and there were no adverse effects to Orion’s navigation or communication systems. 

Teams are examining whether a potential contributor to this issue is related to a power configuration test implemented by the flight teams to investigate previous instances in which one of eight units opened without a command. The umbilical was successfully commanded closed each time and there was no loss of power flowing to avionics on the spacecraft.  

The spacecraft obtained additional data using its optical navigation system, which is a sensitive camera to take images of the Moon and Earth to help orient the spacecraft by looking at the size and position of the celestial bodies in the images. Engineers also continue to work plans to accomplish several additional test objectives during Orion’s journey back to Earth. A host of test objectives provide information to engineers about how Orion operates in space, allowing them opportunities to validate performance models and learn as much as possible about the spacecraft. 

In preparation for Orion’s return to Earth, the team from NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program and the U.S. Navy, who will recover Orion from the Pacific Ocean, completed its final training day at sea, using a mock capsule in the water for divers and small boats to practice open water recovery procedures. 

On Monday, Dec. 5, Orion will make its closest approach to the Moon, flying 79.2 miles above the lunar surface. It will perform the return powered flyby burn at 10:43 a.m. CST, which will last about 3 minutes and 27 seconds, changing the velocity of the spacecraft by approximately 655 mph (961 feet per second). The return powered flyby is the last large maneuver of the mission, with only smaller trajectory corrections to target Earth remaining. 

Live coverage of the close lunar flyby and burn will begin at 8 a.m. CST on NASA TV, the agency’s website, and the NASA app. During the coverage, lighting will be different than it was during Orion’s initial close lunar flyby on Nov. 21. The spacecraft will lose communications with Earth for approximately 31 minutes beginning at 10:40 a.m. CST, as it flies behind the far side of the Moon. 

At 4 p.m. CST on Dec. 5, NASA leaders will discuss the results of the return powered flyby burn and the deployment of recovery assets to sea ahead of Orion’s splashdown on Dec. 11. Live coverage will be available on all NASA channels. 

Just after 4:30 p.m. CST on Dec. 4, Orion was traveling 222,213 miles from Earth and 23,873 miles from the Moon, cruising at 3,076 mph. 

Images from the mission are available on NASA’s Johnson Space Center Flickr account and Image and Video Library. When bandwidth allows, live views from Orion are available in real-time. 

Artemis I – Flight Day 18: Orion Re-enters Lunar Sphere of Influence

art001e001933 (Dec. 2, 2022) A camera mounted on one of Orion’s four solar arrays captured this image of the Moon on flight day 17 of the 25.5-day Artemis I mission from a distance of more than 222,000 miles from Earth. Orion has exited the distant lunar orbit and is heading for a Dec. 11 splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Orion re-entered the lunar sphere of influence at 4:45 p.m. CST Saturday, Dec. 3, making the Moon the main gravitational force acting on the spacecraft. Entry into the lunar sphere of entry occurred when the spacecraft was about 39,993 miles from the lunar surface. It will exit the lunar sphere of influence for a final time on Tuesday, Dec. 6, one day after the return powered flyby about 79 miles above the lunar surface. 

On Flight Day 18, engineers also performed a development flight test objective that changed the minimum jet firing time for the reaction control thrusters over a period of 24 hours. This test objective is designed to exercise the reaction control system jets in a pre-planned sequence to model jet thruster firings that will be incorporated into the crewed Artemis II mission. 

The test used the reaction control system (RCS) thrusters, built by ArianeGroup, on the European Service Module. All firings of RCS thrusters during the flight test to date have used those on the service module. Another set of 12 RCS thrusters, built by Aerojet Rocketdyne, are located on the crew module.  

While the crew module thrusters will be tested a few days before Orion’s splashdown on Earth, their primary role takes place in the final hour before splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. After the crew module and service module separate the crew module’s RCS thrusters will be used to ensure the spacecraft is properly oriented for re-entry, with its heat shield pointed forward, and stable during descent under parachutes. 

Orion will be out of communication with NASA’s Deep Space Network for about 4.5 hours from 7:40 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. while network teams reconfigure ground stations. The flight control team has adjusted the activity timeline, and there is no impact to the mission’s trajectory. Automated commands will guide the spacecraft during this period, and Orion will reacquire signal as it passes within range of the Canberra ground station. 

Just after 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 3, Orion was traveling 221,630 miles from Earth and 40,086 miles from the Moon, cruising at 2,777 miles per hour. 

Images from the mission are available on NASA’s Johnson Space Center Flickr account and Image and Video Library. When bandwidth allows, live views from Orion are available in real-time. 

Artemis I – Flight Day 17: Orion Fine-tunes Trajectory, Downlinks Data, Continues Test Objectives

art001e001859 (Dec. 1, 2022) Orion’s optical navigation camera captured this image of the Moon on flight day 16 of the Artemis I mission. Orion uses the optical navigation camera to capture imagery of the Earth and the Moon at different phases and distances, providing an enhanced body of data to certify its effectiveness under different lighting conditions as a way to help orient the spacecraft on future missions with crew.

After departing distant retrograde orbit the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 1, Orion completed a planned trajectory correction burn to fine-tune its course toward the Moon. The five-second burn occurred at 9:54 p.m. CST Thursday, and changed the spacecraft’s velocity by about 0.3 mph or less than half a foot per second. 

Dec. 2, teams collected additional images with Orion’s optical navigation camera and downlinked a wide variety of data files to the ground, including data from the Hybrid Electronic Radiation Assessor, or HERA. The radiation detector measures charged particles that pass through its sensors. Measurements from HERA and several other radiation-related sensors and experiments aboard Artemis I will help NASA better understand the space radiation environment future crews will experience and develop effective protections. On crewed missions, HERA will be part of the spacecraft’s caution and warning system and will sound a warning in the case of a solar energetic particle event, notifying the crew to take shelter. NASA is also testing a similar HERA unit aboard the International Space Station.   

Orion carries other experiments to gather data on radiation, including several radiation area monitors about the size of a matchbox that record the total radiation dose during the mission, dosimeters provided by ESA (European Space Agency) mounted inside the cabin to collect radiation data with time stamps to allow scientists to assess dose rates during various mission phases, and three “purposeful passengers” collecting additional information on what crews will experience during future missions. Four space biology investigations, collectively called Biology Experiement-1, are examining the impact of deep space radiation on seeds, fungi, yeast, and algae.  

Orion will reenter the lunar sphere of influence on Saturday, Dec. 3, making the Moon the main gravitational force acting on the spacecraft. It will exit the lunar sphere of influence for a final time on Tuesday, Dec. 6, one day after its return powered flyby about 79 miles above the lunar surface. 

A total of about 7,940 pounds of propellant has been used, which is about 150 pounds less that the amount expected before launch. Approximately 2,040 pounds of margin is available beyond what flight controllers plan to use for the remainder of the mission, which is nearly 130 pounds more than expected amounts before launch. About 97 gigabytes of data have been sent to the ground by the spacecraft.  

Just after 1 p.m. CST on Dec. 2, Orion was traveling 229,812 miles from Earth and 50,516 miles from the Moon, cruising at 2,512 miles per hour. 

Images from the mission are available on NASA’s Johnson Space Center Flickr account and Image and Video Library. When bandwidth allows, live views from Orion are available in real-time. 

Artemis I – Flight Day 16: Orion Successfully Completes Distant Retrograde Departure Burn

art001e001820 (Dec. 1, 2022): On flight day 16, a camera mounted on one of Orion’s solar arrays snapped this image of our Moon as the spacecraft prepared to exit distant retrograde orbit during the Artemis I mission.

Orion has left its distant lunar orbit and is on its return journey home. The spacecraft successfully completed the distant retrograde departure burn at 3:53 p.m. CST, firing its main engine for 1 minute 45 seconds to set the spacecraft on course for a close lunar flyby before its return home.

The burn changed Orion’s velocity by about 454 feet per second and was performed using the Orion main engine on the European Service Module. The engine is an orbital maneuvering system engine modified for use on Orion and built by Aerojet Rocketdyne. The engine has the ability to provide 6,000 pounds of thrust. The proven engine flying on Artemis I flew on 19 space shuttle flights, beginning with STS-41G in October 1984 and ending with STS-112 in October 2002.

The burn is one of two maneuvers required ahead of Orion’s splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11. The second will occur on Monday, Dec. 5, when the spacecraft will fly 79.2 miles above the lunar surface and perform the return powered flyby burn, which will commit Orion on its course toward Earth.

Teams also continued thermal tests of the star trackers during their eighth and final planned test. Star trackers are a navigation tool that measure the positions of stars to help the spacecraft determine its orientation. In the first three flight days of the mission, engineers evaluated initial data to understand  star tracker readings correlated to thruster firings.

A trajectory correction burn is planned for approximately 9:53 p.m. CST today, when Orion’s auxiliary thrusters will fine-tune the spacecraft’s path.

Just after 4:30 p.m. CST on Dec. 1, Orion was traveling 237,600 miles from Earth and 52,900 miles from the Moon, cruising at 2,300 mph.

Images are available on NASA’s Johnson Space Center Flickr account and Image and Video Library. When bandwidth allows, views of the mission are available in real-time.

Artemis I – Flight Day 15: Team Polls “Go” For Distant Retrograde Orbit Departure

art001e000669 (Nov. 27, 2022) On flight day 12 of the 25.5-day Artemis I mission, a camera on the tip of one of Orion’s solar arrays captured the Moon as Orion travels in distant retrograde orbit around the Moon.

The Artemis I mission management team met today to review the overall status of the flight test and polled “go” for Orion to depart from its distant retrograde orbit, where it has been since Nov. 25. Orion will conduct a burn to depart the orbit at 3:53 p.m. CST Thurs., Dec. 1 and begin its trek back toward Earth.  

“We are continuing to collect flight test data and buy down risk for crewed flight,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis mission manager. “We continue to learn how the system is performing, where our margins are, and how to operate and work with the vehicle as an integrated team.” 

On Flight Day 15, Orion also performed a planned orbit maintenance burn to maintain the spacecraft’s trajectory and decrease its velocity ahead of its Thursday departure from a distant lunar orbit. During the burn, Orion used six of its auxiliary thrusters on the European Service module to fire for 95 seconds. The burn was initially planned for a shorter duration but was lengthened as part of the team’s effort to add test objectives to the mission. The 95-second burn provided additional data to characterize the thrusters and the radiative heating on the spacecraft’s solar array wings to help inform Orion’s operational constraints. All previous thruster burns were 17 seconds or less.  

Orion’s European-built service module has provided the propulsive capabilities to adjust the spacecraft’s course in space via its 33 engines of various types, and serves as Orion’s powerhouse, supplying it will electricity, thermal control, and air and water for future crews, in addition to propulsion. Artemis I is the first time NASA is using a European-built system as a critical element to power an American spacecraft. Provided by ESA (European Space Agency) and its partner Airbus Defence and Space, the service module extends NASA’s international cooperation from the International Space Station into deep space exploration.  

NASA is continuing to extend its relationships with its international partners to explore the Moon under Artemis. The agency’s Gateway, a multi-purpose outpost in development to orbit the Moon that will provide essential support for long-term lunar exploration, includes contributions from ESA as well as the Canadian Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Agencywide, NASA has more than 600 active international agreements with organizations and space agencies around the world. 

Teams also elected to add four additional test objectives to Orion’s return trip to Earth to gather additional data on the spacecraft’s capabilities. Two will evaluate whether opening and closing a valve the pressure control assembly affects a slow leak rate in that system; a third will demonstrate Orion’s ability to perform attitude maneuvers at the rate that will be necessary for a test on Artemis II; and the fourth will test its capability to fly in a three degree of freedom attitude control mode, as opposed to the six degree of freedom mode it typically flies in.

Prior to today’s orbital maintenance burn, a total of 5,681 pounds of propellant had been used, 203 pounds less than values expected before launch. Some 2,004 pounds of margin is available beyond what is planned for use during the mission, a 94-pound increase above prelaunch expected values. 

Just after 4 p.m. CST on Nov. 30, Orion was traveling 253,079 miles from Earth and 50,901 miles from the Moon, cruising at 2,052 mph. 

Coverage of the distant retrograde orbit departure burn will begin Thursday at 3:30 p.m. CST, with the burn scheduled to occur at 3:53 p.m. Watch live on NASA TV, the agency’s website, and the NASA app. 

View the latest imagery of the Moon, Earth, and Orion on NASA’s Johnson Space Center Flickr account and Image and Video Library. When bandwidth allows, views of the mission are available in real-time. 

Artemis I — I Flight Day 14: Deep Space Testing Continues

art001e000606 (Nov. 24, 2022) On flight day 9, the inside of Orion shows the display of the Callisto payload. Callisto is Lockheed Martin’s technology demonstration in collaboration with Amazon and Cisco, testing voice-activated and video technology that may assist future astronauts on deep space missions.

Engineers continued with the jet firing development flight test objective that began on flight day 12. Today, teams demonstrated the “low” portion of the reaction control thruster firing time range. This test objective is designed to exercise the reaction control system jets in a different configuration to model how thruster jets will be used during the Artemis II mission, furthering our understanding of spacecraft operations before we have crew onboard. 

As part of planned testing throughout the mission, the guidance, navigation, and control officer, also known as GNC, performed the sixth of eight planned tests of the star trackers that support Orion’s navigation system. Star trackers are a navigation tool that measure the positions of stars to help the spacecraft determine its orientation. The star trackers continue to provide excellent data to develop our required navigation solutions. 

Engineers will characterize the alignment between the star trackers that are part of the guidance, navigation and control system and the Orion inertial measurements units, by exposing different areas of the spacecraft to the Sun and activating the star trackers in different thermal states to determine if the temperature differences induce any changes. The inertial measurement units contain three devices, called gyros, used to measure spacecraft body rotation rates, and three accelerometers used to measure spacecraft accelerations.   

A new flight test objective was added to flight day 14 to collect additional information on the thermal characterization of Orion. During a majority of the mission Orion is typically in a tail-to-sun attitude, meaning that the solar arrays face toward the sun to generate power. This flight test objective purposefully orients Orion outside of a perfect tail-to-sun attitude by up to 20 degrees in order to evaluate the spacecraft and gather additional data. Currently, when Orion is out of the tail-to-sun attitude for more than three hours, a ten-hour tail-to-sun recovery period is required. This additional flight test objective will help engineers understand the range of Orion’s thermal performance to incorporate into Artemis II and beyond. 

Time in distant retrograde orbit allows engineers to test the spacecraft and its systems in a deep-space environment ahead of future missions with crew. Distant retrograde orbit is a highly stable orbit where little fuel is required to stay for an extended period. While visiting a distant retrograde orbit allows engineers to capitalize on an orbit that was comprehensively studied as part of mission planned for earlier agency efforts, future Artemis mission will visit different orbits.  

On Artemis II, four astronauts in Orion will travel around the Moon and fly several thousand miles above the lunar far side before trekking back to Earth. On Artemis III, the first Artemis mission to the lunar surface, Orion will venture to near-rectilinear halo orbit, an orbit balanced between the Earth’s and Moon’s gravity that hangs almost like a necklace from the Moon. The orbit provides access to the Moon’s South Pole, where 13 candidate landing regions have been identified for future Artemis missions.   

Just after 4 p.m. CST, Orion was over 264,000 miles from Earth and nearly 46,000 miles from the Moon, cruising at 1,790 mph. 

Watch the latest episode of Artemis All Access to learn more about Orion’s journey so far. 

On Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 5 p.m. EST, NASA will host a briefing to preview distant retrograde departure on Thurs., Dec. 1 and how the recovery teams are preparing for entry and splashdown. The briefing will be live on NASA TV, the agency’s website, and the NASA app. 

Artemis I — Flight Day 13: Orion Goes the (Max) Distance

(Nov. 28, 2022) On flight day 13, Orion reached its maximum distance from Earth during the Artemis I mission when it was 268,563 miles away from our home planet. Orion has now traveled farther than any other spacecraft built for humans.

NASA’s uncrewed Orion spacecraft reached the farthest distance from Earth it will travel during the Artemis I mission — 268,563 miles from our home planet — just after 3 p.m. CST. The spacecraft also captured imagery of Earth and the Moon together throughout the day, including of the Moon appearing to eclipse Earth. 

Reaching the halfway point of the mission on Flight Day 13 of a 25.5 day mission, the spacecraft remains in healthy condition as it continues its journey in distant retrograde orbit, an approximately six-day leg of its larger mission thousands of miles beyond the Moon.  

“Because of the unbelievable can-do spirit, Artemis I has had extraordinary success and has completed a series of history making events,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “It’s incredible just how smoothly this mission has gone, but this is a test. That’s what we do – we test it and we stress it.” 

Engineers had originally planned an orbital maintenance burn today but determined it was not necessary because of Orion’s already precise trajectory in distant retrograde orbit. Based on Orion’s performance, managers are examining adding seven additional test objectives to further characterize the spacecraft’s thermal environment and propulsion system to reduce risk before flying future missions with crew. To date, flight controllers have accomplished or are in the process of completing 37.5% of the test objectives associated with the mission, with many remaining objectives set to be evaluated during entry, descent, splashdown, and recovery. 

NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems team and the U.S. Navy are beginning initial operations for recovery of Orion when it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean. The team will deploy Tuesday for training at sea before return to shore to make final preparations ahead of splashdown. 

Managers also closed out today a team formed earlier in the mission to investigate readings associated with the spacecraft’s star trackers after determining the hardware is performing as expected and initially suspect readings are a byproduct of the flight environment.   

Flight controllers also have completed 9 of 19 translational burns and exercised the three types of engines on Orion – the main engine, auxiliary thrusters, and reaction control system thrusters. Approximately 5,640 pounds of propellants have been used, which is about 150 pounds fewer than prelaunch expected values. More than 2,000 pounds of margin remain available beyond what teams plan to use for the mission, an increase of more than 120 pounds from prelaunch expected values. So far, teams have already sent more than 2,000 files from the spacecraft to Earth. 

Just before 8 p.m. EST, Orion was 268,457 miles from Earth and 43,138 miles from the Moon, cruising at 1,679 miles per hour.

To follow the mission real-time, you can track Orion during its mission around the Moon and back and watch live imagery from the spacecraft. Check the NASA TV schedule for updates on the next televised events. The latest imagery and videos can be found on the Johnson Space Center Flickr.