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Saturday, May 18, 2024

The NASA Spacecraft Has Successfully Completed Its Close Encounter With the Moon

On Monday, a NASA spacecraft called Orion flew by the far side of the moon, coming to within 129 kilometres (81 miles) of the surface.

Since it was launched as part of the Artemis I mission on Wednesday, the spacecraft, which does not have any people on board, has been heading in the direction of the moon ever since. The trip will continue for a total of twenty more days.

At a press briefing held on Monday evening, NASA’s Orion programme manager Howard Hu remarked, “The vehicle continues to work incredibly well.”

One of the primary goals of the mission is to ensure that the Orion spacecraft functions exactly as intended. This will give NASA the opportunity to make any necessary modifications and repairs to the spacecraft before astronauts board it for the Artemis II mission, which is not scheduled to launch until at least 2024. The objective of the third Artemis mission is to land people on the surface of the moon. This mission will use both the Orion spacecraft and a vehicle developed by SpaceX.

On Monday, just a few minutes before Orion made its closest approach to the moon, the spacecraft powered up its engine for a total of 2.5 minutes. This resulted in an increase in the spacecraft’s velocity as it swung outward into an orbit that is referred to as a remote retrograde orbit.

The spacecraft is going in a retrograde orbit around the moon, which means that it is moving around the moon in the direction that is opposite to the way that the moon travels around Earth. The distance of the orbit is 40,000 miles above the lunar surface.

The spacecraft will remain at that location for a total of six days, giving the mission controllers a prolonged length of time in which to test Orion’s many systems. NASA noted that this would be the furthest any spaceship that was meant to transport people had ever travelled from Earth at any time in its history.

The previous record was set during the Apollo 13 mission, when the damaged spacecraft had to make a detour around the moon before returning to Earth. This prevented it from entering orbit around the moon.

Mission controllers at NASA lost touch with the Orion spacecraft as predicted as the spacecraft passed in front of the moon. Because of this, they did not learn that the engine firing had been successful until 34 minutes after the ship Orion surfaced again.

During the flyby, the spacecraft proved that it was capable of sending live footage back to Earth, according to Judd Frieling, a NASA flight director. Frieling said that the spacecraft will broadcast additional live video to a NASA website whenever it was feasible to do so. While it was out of communication with the moon and behind it, the Orion captured video and still photographs of the far side of the moon.

Mr. Frieling said that it would take a few days for them to take down those specific photographs.

Wednesday saw the launch of the Artemis I spacecraft from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, atop the massive new Space Launch System rocket developed by NASA.

The Artemis I flight has gone off without a hitch, with the exception of a few funny little problems that the Artemis mission manager, Mike Sarafin, referred to as “funnies.” A momentary misunderstanding occurred with Orion’s star trackers as a result of the spacecraft’s engines being engaged, which led to some amusing events.

Mr. Sarafin said on Monday that they are now on flying day six of a mission that will last for a total of 26 days.

The key non-American component of Artemis was put through its paces during the flyby. The Orion capsule itself was manufactured by Lockheed Martin, while Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and the United Launch Alliance were responsible for the construction of the various components of the Space Launch rocket.

One of the contributions that the European Space Agency made to the Artemis programme was the building of the service module for the Orion spacecraft. This module is located below the capsule and is responsible for housing the spacecraft’s thrusters, solar arrays, communications equipment, and other supplies. This module was constructed by Airbus. The module will not be brought back to Earth; rather, it will be ejected into space to be consumed by the atmosphere just before the capsule crashes down on the ocean floor.

On Friday, Orion’s service module’s engines will be activated once again so that the spacecraft may enter its new, more distant retrograde orbit. Orion will surpass the distance record set by Apollo 13 for a spacecraft meant to take men away from Earth on Saturday; on the following Monday, Orion will reach its maximum distance from Earth, which is over 270,000 miles.

A Boyle
A Boyle
I cover Science related topics for The National Era
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