Orion spacecraft performs lunar flyby burn, setting up return to Earth
NASA’s Orion spacecraft is making its way back home, making its closest approach to the moon Monday.
The spacecraft will fly just 79 miles above the lunar surface as it fires its engines, changing the speed of the vehicle and preparing for it to make the long journey back to Earth.
This return powered flyby burn is that last large maneuver of the mission, which will change the velocity of the spacecraft by about 655 miles per hour. It is planned to last 3 minutes and 27 seconds.
Orion is designed to take astronauts to the moon, the first vehicle designed to safely transport humans to lunar orbit and back since the Apollo program.
"We are continuing to collect flight test data and buydown risk for crewed flight," said Mike Sarafin, NASA's Artemis mission manager. "We continue to learn how the system is performing where our margins are in in how to operate and work with the vehicle is a integrated team."
The mission launched from Kennedy Space Center November 16 on NASA's SLS rocket. So far, the mission has been a success.
“With how well the mission has been going, we have found ourselves rather than having to work anomalies," said NASA deputy chief flight director. "We are able to push the boundaries.”
The mission has been testing critical systems on the vehicle, like communication and life support, before taking astronauts on its next
One final critical test will be of the vehicle’s heat shield -- where it will experience temperatures upwards of 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it returns to Earth December 11.