Orion is now heading home! Said NASA after the unmanned aircraft concluded its final lunar fly by and conducted a big engine burn on Monday in the vicinity of the Moon. The splashdown is expected on the Sunday December 11 at 9:40 am local time (1740 GMT) into the Pacific as planned by the US agency. It will then be recovered and hoisted aboard a US Navy ship. A trouble-free return at the weekend will see astronauts climb aboard Orion for its next mission in late 2024.
Communication with the capsule was interrupted for 30 minutes when it was behind the far side of the Moon — an area more cratered than the near side and first seen by humans during the Apollo era, although they didn’t land there.
Sources in the know indicate, the agency is planning a series of ever more complex outings for the capsule and its launch rocket – as part of its Artemis programme.
Artemis-1, the first flight has been all about testing systems in the absence of astronauts. Artemis 2 would have further testing of protocols. Artemis-3 is most eagerly anticipated – an attempt to land people back on the lunar surface for the first time in more than 50 years. It could take place in late 2025 or in 2026.
This was the last maneuver of NASA’s mega Moon rocket SLS since it blasted off from Florida on November 16. From start to finish, the journey should last 25 and a half days.