NASA’s Artemis I Moon Mission to End in Water Landing Today!


Artemis I Mission

Dear Commons Community,

The Orion capsule  with no astronauts aboard  will splash down this (Sunday) afternoon after a 26-day journey that took it to the moon and back.

NASA launched the giant rocket toward the moon on November 26th. The rocket reached orbit and sent a small capsule  with no astronauts on board  to the moon. This was the beginning of Artemis I, a mission to test NASA’s ability to return astronauts to the moon 50 years after it last accomplished that feat.

Today, Artemis I will come to an end when that vehicle splashes back down in the Pacific Ocean.

The splashdown is expected 12:40 p.m. Eastern time. NASA Television will begin streaming coverage of the return at 11 a.m. Eastern time on Sunday.

NASA will hold a news conference at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time after the splashdown.

The primary goal of Artemis I was a crucial shakedown of NASA’s new space hardware, including Orion, a spacecraft for carrying astronauts to deep space, including lunar orbit. Orion is unoccupied this time, but it will take astronauts to the moon in the coming years.

During its nearly monthlong journey to and from the moon, Orion got within 80 miles of the lunar surface. It also extended its orbit tens of thousands of miles from the moon. If all goes well on Sunday, the mission will complete its most important objective: proving that the spacecraft can safely re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on the way back from the moon, and then splashing down under parachutes in the Pacific Ocean to the west of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

The Orion spacecraft will perform what NASA calls a skip re-entry. During the skip re-entry, the capsule will enter the upper atmosphere, oriented at an angle where the capsule generates enough aerodynamic lift to bounce back up out of the atmosphere. It will then re-enter a second time. It’s almost like throwing a rock that bounces off the surface of a pond before sinking. The maneuver allows more precise steering toward a landing site closer to the coast.

NASA officials argue that the moon missions are central to its human spaceflight program — not simply a do-over of the Apollo moon landings from 1969 to 1972.

“It’s a future where NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon,” Bill Nelson, the NASA administrator, said during a news conference earlier this year. “And on these increasingly complex missions, astronauts will live and work in deep space and will develop the science and technology to send the first humans to Mars.”

For scientists, the renewed focus on the moon promises a bonanza of new data in the coming years. There is a particular interest in the amount of water ice on the moon, which could be used for astronauts’ water and oxygen supplies in the future and could provide fuel for missions deeper into space.

For those  of us old enough to remember,  this is like the 1960s when the United States first made major advances in the space race!



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