Science & Technology

NASA’s Artemis I mission flies past the moon

Spacecraft Orion to enter orbit around the Moon November 25

By Nandita Banerji
Published: Tuesday 22 November 2022
On Day 5 of the Artemis mission, Orion was over 340,000 kilometres from Earth. Photo:

United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Artemis spacecraft has flown past the Moon six days into the mission. 

The Orion spacecraft came as close as 80 miles (128 km) from the surface of the Moon November 21, 2022 passing over several Apollo landing sites, according to a tweet put out by NASA’s official Twitter handle for the Artemis mission. 

Orion is expected to enter orbit around the Moon on 25 November. 

Read more: NASA’s Artemis 1 successfully takes off, heralding new era in human lunar exploration

“The mission continues to proceed as we had planned, and the ground systems, our operations teams, and the Orion spacecraft continue to exceed expectations, and we continue to learn along the way about this new, deep-space spacecraft,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager, in a November 21 press note. 

The first Artemis mission had successfully taken off at 12.17 pm IST November 16, 2022, from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Artemis I’s main purpose is to test the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft ahead of Artemis II. 

NASA shared a series of the Orion selfies, showing the capsule against the darkness of space. Photo: NASA

NASA shared a series of the Orion selfies near the moon, showing the capsule against the darkness of space. Photo: NASA

This mission start was not smooth, with several failed attempts to launch. Hydrogen leaks, technical issues and, most recently, a hurricane that SLS weathered on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral in Florida were a few hurdles that caused delays earlier. 

The series of increasingly complex Artemis missions will eventually take humans back to Earth’s lone satellite. The programme’s long-term vision is to establish a permanent base camp on the Moon and facilitate human missions to Mars.

The launch will also feature NASA’s space launch system — its most powerful rocket to date. The Artemis I mission is uncrewed and has only test dummies on board. 

The mission’s primary objective is to propel a test capsule far from Earth. The spacecraft will loop around the Moon on a big arc covering 65,000 kilometres before returning home to a Pacific Ocean splashdown in six weeks.

Orion will travel in a direction opposite to what the Moon travels around the Earth. This orbit will be highly stable where little fuel is required to stay for an extended trip in deep space to put Orion’s systems to the test in an extreme environment far from Earth.

Read more: Artemis set to take off soon: 5 things you need to know about this NASA mission

On Day 5 of the flight, Orion spacecraft took a selfie while approaching the Moon ahead of the outbound powered flyby — a burn of Orion’s main engine on the European Space Agency service module.

During this manoeuver, Orion came within 81 miles of the lunar surface, said a tweet by NASA’s Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, Jim Free. 

NASA shared a series of the Orion selfies, showing the capsule against the darkness of space.

The spacecraft travelled at a speed of over 8,000 km per hour, increasing speed at a rate of more than 930 kmph. 

NASA plans to put the first woman and first person of colour on the Moon with the Artemis programme. The earlier mission to the Moon was named after the Greek god Apollo. The current one is named after his mythical twin sister. 

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