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The Artemis 1 mission – a 25-day unmanned experimental flight around the moon designed to pave the way for future astronaut missions – came to a dramatic end as NASA’s Orion spacecraft made a successful launch into the Sun’s ocean.
It completed the last part of its journey, closing in on the dense layer of Earth’s inner atmosphere, after traveling 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers) between the moon and Earth. Discharged at 12:40 pm ET Sunday in the Pacific Ocean off California’s Baja Mexico.
This last step was one of the most difficult and dangerous legs of the mission.
But after it was separated, Rob Navias, the NASA commentator who led Sunday’s broadcast, called the reentry process “textbook.”
“I’m overwhelmed,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Sunday. “This is a unique day.”
The capsule is now floating in the Pacific Ocean, where it will remain until about 3 pm ET as NASA collects additional data and runs through some tests. That process, much like the rest of the mission, aims to get the Orion spacecraft ready for the astronauts to fly.
We experience all the heat coming in and generated in the box. What we want to do is inform us of how that will affect the interior of the capsule,” NASA flight director Judd Frieling told reporters last week.
A fleet of recovery vehicles – including helicopter gunships and a Navy ship called the USS Portland – are waiting nearby.
The spacecraft was hitting the air at nearly 32 times the speed of sound (24,850 miles per hour or nearly 40,000 kilometers per hour) — so fast that the compression wave caused the outside of the vehicle to heat up to nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Celsius).
“The next big test is the heat shield,” Nelson told CNN in a phone interview Thursday, referring to the barrier designed to protect the Orion capsule from re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.
The heat also caused the final copper molecules to ionize, creating buildup plasma that caused communications to go black for 5½ minutes, according to Artemis I flight director Judd Frieling.
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When the capsule reached about 200,000 feet (61,000 meters) above the Earth’s surface, it triggered a rollover that sent the capsule back up briefly — like skipping a rock across the surface of a lake.
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“Skip entry gives us a consistent port location that supports astronaut safety because it allows teams on the ground to better and faster coordinate recovery efforts,” said Joe Bomba, Lockheed Martin’s Orion aerothermal engineer, in a statement. Lockheed is NASA’s primary contractor for the Orion spacecraft.
“By splitting the heat and reentry force into two events, omitting the entry also provides the benefits of reducing the forces of the astronauts,” according to Lockheed, referring to the crushing forces experienced by humans in space flight.
Other black communications, lasting about three minutes, followed the discussion.
As he ascended the final descent, the capsule slowed dramatically, shedding a thousand miles per hour until the parachutes deployed. By that time, Orion was traveling at about 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour).
Since there were no astronauts to testify on this mission – a few mannequins equipped to collect data and a Snoopy doll – Nelson, the head of NASA, emphasized the importance of demonstrating that the capsule could be returned safely.
In the interim, there are plans to launch the Artemis moon missions in the program, which will send astronauts to Mars, which will have a much faster and more daring journey.
Orion traveled nearly 1.3 million miles (2 million kilometers) on this mission on a twisted path to remote lunar orbit, carrying the capsule farther than any spacecraft designed to carry humans has ever traveled.
The second goal of this mission was for the Orion service module, a cylindrical attachment at the bottom of space, to deploy 10 small satellites. But at least four of those satellites failed after being launched into orbit, including a small lunar lander deployed in Japan and one of NASA’s own payloads, one of the first small satellites designed to explore interplanetary space.
During its journey, the spacecraft took stunning pictures of the Earth and, in the last two flybys, images of the lunar surface and the “Earth Rise”.
Nelson said that if he only had to give a letter to the Artemis I mission, it would be A.
“No more A-, because we hope to be wrong. And the good news is that when they make mistakes, NASA knows how to fix them,” Nelson said. But “if I am a scholastic, I would give an A-plus.’
With the success of the Artemis 1 mission, NASA will now focus on the data collected during this flight and select a crew for the Artemis 2 mission, which could take off in 2024.
Artemis II will aim to send astronauts on a similar trajectory as Artemis I, flying around the moon but not landing on its surface.
Artemis III mission, now It is expected to be launched in 2015 to put the moon boots back on, and NASA officials said she would be the first woman and the first person of color to achieve such a feat.
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