NASA’s Orion spacecraft lands back on Earth after a successful moon mission | Science and technology news


NASA’s Orion spacecraft has successfully landed in the Pacific Ocean after a 25-day mission around the moon.

The unmanned capsule, designed to carry astronauts on future voyages, landed near the island of Guadalupe, south-east of Cuba, just after 5.40pm UK time.

The spacecraft hurtled toward Earth at 25,000 mph, slowing to about 325 mph after entering the atmosphere before deploying 11 parachutes and dropping to less than 20 mph.

It had been blasted from Earth on November 16 on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket as part of the Artemis-1 mission (successor to the Apollo program), heralding a new era of lunar exploration in which humans maybe moon could return to earth.

Nine days later, it made history Travel 270,000 miles beyond the earth – the furthest distance ever traveled by a spaceship transporting people.

It has now clocked more than 1.4 million miles.

On Sunday it will be 50 years since astronauts last landed on the moon. After landing on December 11, 1972, Apollo 17’s Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent three days exploring the Valley of Taurus-Littrow.

Orion was the first capsule to visit the moon since.

The Orion capsule approaching Earth
This handout from NASA TV shows NASA's Orion spacecraft approaching the moon.  Image: NASA/AP
Image: NASA/AP

Shaun the Sheep’s Space Journey

There might not have been humans on that mission, but returning from the long-haul voyage are woolly space travelers Snoopy and Shaun the Sheep, along with three mannequin astronauts — dubbed Commander Moonikin Campos, Helga, and Zohar — who were outfitted with vibration sensors and radiation monitors.

Salvage teams will pull the capsule out of the ocean.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said he was “overwhelmed,” adding, “This is an extraordinary day. It’s historic because now we’re going back into space – into deep space – with a new generation.”

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While the Artemis 1 mission was all about testing systems, the Artemis II flight test, scheduled for 2024, will be NASA’s first mission with astronauts to fly around the moon.

If successful, Artemis II will pave the way for the first woman and next man to land on the moon as part of Artemis III, possibly as early as 2025.

The Artemis missions are part of NASA’s long-term plans to build a space station – dubbed the Lunar Gateway – where Astronauts will be able to live and work.

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