On Monday, NASA’s Orion spacecraft reached its greatest distance from Earth, being 268,563 miles (approximately 432,210 km) away from our planet. This marks the halfway point of Artemis 1’s 25.5-day mission. The spacecraft will continue its journey around the Moon before returning back to Earth.
Orion became the first spacecraft to break the record for the farthest distance traveled from Earth by a manned spacecraft into a far retrograde lunar orbit.
During its nearly week-long orbit around the moon, Orion will collect data on the conditions human astronauts may encounter during future Artemis missions.
Of particular concern is the cosmic radiation that astronauts will be exposed to after leaving Earth’s protective magnetosphere. On board Orion are a mannequin and two torsos filled with sensors to determine the levels of radiation they are exposed to. Data from all these sensors will be available after the spacecraft returns to Earth.
The two riskiest parts of a space mission are launch and landing. After the successful launch of the Artemis device, the main attention is paid to the process of entering the atmosphere. Before landing, scheduled for December 11, Orion will be moving at a speed of 24,500 miles per hour (approximately 39,429 km/h). It will sink into the upper atmosphere and then rise again to slow down. It will then enter the atmosphere for descent, traveling at 17,000 miles per hour (27,359 km/h). Before falling into the Pacific Ocean, Orion will be slowed by parachutes, after which it will be picked up by ships of the US Navy.