After four failed attempts, NASA’s Artemis 1 departed the Earth at last on November 16 with Orion in tow, a small spacecraft designed to travel a record-breaking 40,000 miles past the Moon into the endless blackness of space. And rather than keep all the excitement to themselves, NASA has kept the public informed every step of the way.
Since its launch, Orion has filmed a continuous video log of its travels, the footage available on NASA’s YouTube channel. While incredible in theory alone, the video is unfortunately low-resolution. The majority of Orion’s bandwidth is needed for mission activities. The images, however, are nothing short of breathtaking.
As Artemis 1’s Orion capsule drifted between the Earth and Moon, the NASA spacecraft snapped a series of awe-inspiring photos of both celestial objects. “On flight day 9, Orion took these images looking forward to the Moon, and back home toward Earth,” NASA wrote in the caption of the post sharing the unbelievable shots.
Talk about showing both sides of the story. Nice frontback, Orion.— NASA (@NASA) November 25, 2022
On flight day 9, @NASA_Orion took these images looking forward to the Moon, and back home toward Earth.
More full-res images: https://t.co/pUudalErEr
Track #Artemis I in real time: https://t.co/fCVt3jyqwy pic.twitter.com/bnY0uXbWnh
NASA Artemis 1 Mission Reaches Record-Breaking Distance From Earth, Moon
Though technically unmanned, Orion’s commander’s seat isn’t unoccupied. Commander Moonikin Campos, a manikin previously used in Orion vibration tests, is securely buckled in. His trusty companions, Zohar and Helga, are by his side, both of which are female-bodied manikin torsos called phantoms.
Why send Commander Moonikin into space? Well, he and his crew mates are safely recording the effects of deep space flight on the human body. Campos is wearing the Orion Crew Survival System suit – the same spacesuit that astronauts will wear in future missions. Radiation sensors cover his suit, designed to track acceleration and vibration data as Orion hurtles through space at nearly 2,000 mph.
The goal of NASA’s Artemis 1 mission was to send Commander Moonikin 279,617 miles from Earth to the Moon. He would then orbit the lunar surface before continuing another 40,000 miles into deep space.
On Monday afternoon, NASA reached that goal. Artemis 1’s Orion capsule set a new distance record for a human-rated spacecraft, traveling a mind-boggling distance beyond both the Earth and Moon. If all goes to plan, four astronauts will replicate this journey in late 2024.
So far, the Artemis 1 mission couldn’t be going any smoother. “Artemis I has had extraordinary success and has completed a series of history-making events,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. Orion and Commander Moonikin are doing so well, in fact, that NASA plans to add seven more test objectives before their planned December 11 splashdown.