NASA’s Orion capsule set a new record for the farthest orbit ever reached by a crewed spacecraft Monday on its way to the moon.
The dummies were part of the crew for this test flight, but it shows a significant possibility of humans stepping on the moon again.
When was the last time a capsule went to the moon? Fifty years ago, during NASA’s Apollo program. Until now no other capsule has made a trip to the moon since 1972, more than 45 years ago.
Orion took off last Wednesday, and it represents a huge milestone for this test flight that has already cost $4.1 billion.
When the close approach of 81 miles occurred, the crew capsule and its three dummies were on the far side of our moon.
As a result, there was no communication with Houston for half an hour until the far side of the moon emerged from behind Earth. Using cameras onboard, the capsule sent back a photo to show off its view of Earth — a blue dot in complete blackness.
Unlike most orbits, the capsule’s pass over Tranquility Base was almost completely in darkness. The Tranquility Base is the place where Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed back in 1969.
The engineers at the control station did their best to get a few shots on the pass. Unfortunately, no photo ops were made, and managers promised that more photos would be taken during Orion’s return visit in two weeks.
Next Monday, the Orion spacecraft will shatter NASA’s record for the distance a spacecraft designed for astronauts can travel from Earth. The goal is to reach nearly 270,000 miles (433,000 km) of space.
This capsule is planned to spend over a week in lunar orbit before its splashdown landing in the Pacific on 11 December 2022.
With no lunar lander, a touchdown won’t come for nearly two to three years. Instead, NASA astronauts will strap into Orion for flights around the moon in early 2024.
Mission manager Mike Sarafin was ecstatic with the progress of the mission, stating that it had been a “satisfactory A-plus” so far.
Furthermore, the 322-foot (98-meter) rocket caused damage at the Kennedy Space Center launch pad far more than originally expected.
The power from the 8.8 million pounds (4 million kg) of liftoff thrust caused it to tear off the blast doors of the elevator leading inside, rendering it unusable.
However, the management says that the damage will be repaired in well under a week of time. The pad will be ready for use before the next liftoff.
The launch of Orion was among the concerns for NASA during the past week due to Hurricane Nicole. The already delayed schedule of its launch made NASA take a risk that was leaving this $4.1 billion moon rocket on the launch pad 39-A.
But the luck was with NASA, and it helped them successfully launch the capsule into space.