Nasa’s Orion spacecraft today flew past the moon, five days after it was launched off the Florida coast in the US. Orion is on a 25-day mission to orbit the moon before it returns safely to earth.
The spacecraft is to take astronauts to the Moon in the coming years – the first to set foot on its surface since the last Apollo mission in 1972.
This mission, called Artemis 1 aims to ensure that the vehicle is safe for human travel.
The outbound powered flyby burn that Orion performed today is the first of a pair of maneuvers required to enter a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon, Nasa said.
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Orion came within 100 kilometers of the lunar surface, using the moon’s gravity to enter an elongated orbit. Orion needs to demonstrate that it can get in and out of lunar orbit before returning home, surviving reentry in Earth’s atmosphere, and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on December 11.
“At the time of the burn, Orion was 328 miles above the Moon, travelling at 5,023 mph. Shortly after the burn, Orion passed 81 miles above the Moon, travelling at 5,102 mph,” Nasa said in a blog post.