HomeOutdoorsNewsNASA’s Orion Spacecraft Breaks Major Space Travel Record

NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Breaks Major Space Travel Record

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

NASA‘s Orion spacecraft, connected to the Artemis I mission, is breaking records left and right. The spacecraft recently moved around 270,000 miles away from Earth, the farthest a spacecraft designed for human travel has ever gone. Currently, this mission is uncrewed. But, Artemis II, III, and beyond will hopefully be piloted by astronauts if everything goes according to plan.

The previous distance record was set by Apollo 13 in 1970. That mission traveled 248,655 miles from Earth while trying to navigate after an explosion in the service module.

This milestone for Orion comes about halfway through the Artemis I mission. “This halfway point teaches us to number our days so that we can get a heart of wisdom,” said Mike Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis mission manager. “The halfway point affords us an opportunity to step back and then look at what our margins are and where we could be a little smarter to buy down risk and understand the spacecraft’s performance for crewed flight on the very next mission.”

Recently, during its trip around the Moon, Orion sent back some spectacular footage of the Moon moving in front of the Earth. There was also footage from liftoff, and images of the Moon’s surface that we’ve never really seen before.

Orion is currently 13 days into its 26-day mission around the Moon and back. The rocket launched on Nov. 16 from the Kennedy Space Center. The mission is designed to test the spacecraft and its systems to make sure it’s safe to carry astronauts. In space, a European Space Agency service module is assisting Orion, which provides the engine burns necessary to get the spacecraft around the Moon.

Orion’s Performance Thrills NASA Controllers As It Makes Its Way Around the Moon

Recently, the module pushed Orion into Distant Retrograde Orbit, which is the big loop around the Moon before its journey back to Earth. There will be two more maneuvers to get the spacecraft on the right trajectory to splash down. It should return on Dec. 11.

Orion’s performance in space thrilled NASA officials with the Artemis Program. According to a report by the BBC, with the ESA module pushing it along, Orion has used less fuel than they predicted. Additionally, it has generated more power and been more conservative with its energy consumption than expected.

According to Artemis mission manager Mike Serafin, the rare technical issues they’ve encountered are barely issues at all. “[N]one of the anomalies, or funnies, that are out there are of consequence,” said Serafin.

Recently, NASA lost a data connection with Orion while reconfiguring the link between the spacecraft and the Deep Space Network. There was no contact for about 47 minutes on Nov. 23. According to NASA, officials had conducted the reconfiguration many times before, and were looking into the cause of the lost connection. According to NASA, it was a problem with equipment Earth side.