CAPE FLORIDA’S CANAVERAL (AP) — On its journey to a world-record-breaking orbit, NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which had test dummies in place of astronauts, buzzed the lunar surface and whipped into the far side before arriving at the moon on Monday.
It marks a significant accomplishment inside the $3 billion test journey that started last Wednesday being the first times a spacecraft has reached the moon in 50 years.
Workers at Houston’s Johnson Spaceport, home to Mission Control, were “giddy” after seeing a video of the impending moon with our blueish planet and over 230,000 miles (370,000 kilometres) away, as according flight director Judd Frieling click here. Even the flight systems expressed shock at what happened.
The space craft and its four wired-up mannequins were on the other side of the lunar surface when it came within 81 miles (130 kilometres) of them. Mission control in Houston did not learn whether the crucial engine firing went smoothly until the spacecraft came out from behind the moon due to a half-hour contact loss here. A photo of the Earth, which appeared to be a small blue dot encircled by nothing, was returned by the capsule’s cameras.
As it restored radio contact, the capsule rocketed well above 5,000 mph (8,000 kph), according to NASA. A little over a hour longer, Orion soared over Tranquility Base, the site of the July 20, 1969, landing of Neil Macmillan and Buzz Aldrin. Due to the darkness of the pass, there were no images of the location, although managers promised to test taking photos of the flyby’s return in two weeks.
In order to get enough velocity to reach the sweeping, uneven lunar orbit, Orion had to sling around the moon. Friday, the capsule will enter that orbit thanks to another engine firing.
This weekend, Orion will surpass Apollo 13’s record of approximately 250,000 miles (400,000 kilometres) from Earth for the farthest distance travelled by an astronaut-designed spacecraft set by NASA in 1970. And it will continue to go, getting up to 270,000 miles from Earth at its farthest next Monday (433,000 kilometers).
Orion lacks a lunar lander; a landing won’t occur until NASA astronauts use SpaceX’s Starship to try a moon landing in 2025. Before that, as soon as 2024 will see astronauts board the Orion spacecraft for a trip around the moon.
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