NASA’s Orion spacecraft has splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, marking the end of the Artemis I mission around the moon. At 12:40 p.m., the spacecraft entered the Pacific Ocean off the California coast. ET (9.40 a.m. PST) on Sunday, 12/12/11
The Space Launch System rocket that launched Orion and Orion have completed their first uncrewed test flights ahead of future crewed missions. These missions will take astronauts around Artemis II and Artemis III. Orion flew for 25 days, covering more than 1.4million miles in a distant orbit around moon. Orion also performed two missions. close flybys On the way out and onward return journey.
“The splashdown of the Orion spacecraft – which occurred 50 years to the day of the Apollo 17 Moon landing – is the crowning achievement of Artemis I. From the launch of the world’s most powerful rocket to the exceptional journey around the Moon and back to Earth, this flight test is a major step forward in the Artemis Generation of lunar exploration,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a statement. “It wouldn’t be possible without the incredible NASA team. This mission has been a labor of love for thousands of people over the years. It is inspiring the world to join forces to reach unexplored cosmic shores. Today is a huge win for NASA, the United States, our international partners, and all of humanity.”
Orion separated its crew module (where astronauts would be staying) from its service module (which houses the main propulsion systems) to make the splashdown. As it entered the atmosphere, the spacecraft’s heat shield experienced temperatures of up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit and it used its parachutes to slow from almost 25,000 mph to just 20 mph as it hit the water.
Now, recovery teams are collecting Orion to return it to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to check its condition and to collect data from the many sensors inside. It appears that the spacecraft has adapted to the test flight’s rigorous stresses.
“Orion has returned from the Moon and is safely back on planet Earth,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager. “With splashdown we have successfully operated Orion in the deep space environment, where it exceeded our expectations, and demonstrated that Orion can withstand the extreme conditions of returning through Earth’s atmosphere from lunar velocities.”