By Harold W. Reid, The Chicago Times
December 12, 2022
SAN DIEGO – NASA’s Orion capsule splashed back down on Earth in the Pacific ocean Sunday after making an uncrewed mission around the Moon. The Orion spacecraft splashed down off the coast of Mexico’s Baja California at 9:40 am (PST). The 25-day mission included tests that saw Orion travel some 270,000 miles away from Earth.
“This was a challenging mission, and this is what mission success looks like,” NASA’s Artemis I mission manager Mike Sarafin said at a press conference.
According to NASA, Orion plunged back into Earth’s atmosphere for a 20-minute descent to test its heat shield in temperatures up to 5,000 F degrees. Reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere causes friction that slowed Orion down from 24,500 mph to 325 mph until parachutes were deployed to brake Orion’s speed down to 20 mph before splashdown.
Artemis I blasted off to the Moon on November 16 from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, with the Orion spacecraft atop NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the successor to the mighty Saturn V rocket that carried the Apollo missions to the Moon. It is hoped that the Artemis program will lay the foundation for returning astronauts to the lunar surface in order to establish a lunar base that will eventually springboard crewed voyages to Mars. NASA engineers are expected to examine data from the Artemis I mission in order to plan Artemis II’s crewed flight around the moon in 2024. NASA expects a crewed lunar landing in 2025 with Artemis III.
NASA did admit that Orion had some communication blackouts and an electrical issue during the mission around the Moon, but said that overall the mission was a success and exceeded expectations.