US Orion spacecraft enters lunar orbit

Last Novembe26, Friday, NASA's "Artemis 1" mission's " Orion " (Orion) spacecraft entered lunar orbit and reached the far moon point.

The "Orion" spacecraft took off on the NASA moon landing rocket "Space Launch System" (SLS) on November 16 and arrived at its destination on the afternoon of the 25th. Subsequently, the engine of "Orion" was started for 88 seconds, and it was successfully sent into "distant retrograde orbit" (DRO, distant retrograde orbit) as planned.

NASA officials wrote in an update shortly after the Orion engine was shut down: "Shortly before starting the engine, the Orion spacecraft was flying at an altitude of more than 57,000 miles (about 92,000 kilometers) above the lunar surface, which was its furthest distance from the moon. In lunar orbit, flight controllers will monitor the performance of critical systems in the deep space environment."

The "long distance" in the name of DRO means that the apogee of the spacecraft's orbit around the moon is very far away, about 64,000 kilometers from the surface of the moon. When Orion follows this path, it will set a new record of 430,000 kilometers from Earth, farther than any previous manned-class spacecraft.

Currently, this record is about 400,000 kilometers and is held by NASA's Apollo 13 mission. At the time, Apollo 13 wasn't planning to travel that far, but a service module oxygen tank failure prevented it from orbiting the moon rather than landing on its surface.

Orion will break Apollo 13's record on Saturday morning ET, NASA officials said. But the spacecraft will continue to fly farther, reaching a maximum distance of 272,515 miles (about 438,570 kilometers) next Monday.

Orion, which will fly with DRO for less than a week, will leave lunar orbit on December 1, start its engines, and begin its return to Earth. If plans go well, Orion will return to Earth on December 11 and splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.

The nearly 26-day Artemis 1 mission is designed to test Orion and the Space Launch System rocket, and Artemis 2, the first manned mission around the moon, is planned for 2024. The "Artemis 3" mission will take place in 2025 or 2026 and attempt to land on the lunar surface. (little)

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