NASA’s Artemis I mission Orion took impressive pictures of the Moon from an extremely close distance of 130 km. It was closest to the Moon on Monday, November 21, but the photos have only now appeared.
Detailed black-and-white images were taken by the Orion’s onboard navigation camera on the sixth day of the mission, at the same time as the mission-critical engine start-up took place.
Orion is now preparing to perform a critical maneuver that will place the capsule ship into high lunar orbit. The ship will perform one engine start, and if all goes according to plan, will remain in orbit for a week before heading back to Earth. The ship is expected to land in the Pacific on December 11 off the coast of California.
Orion takes pictures of the Earth and the Moon from different angles at different distances to test its optical navigation system in different lighting conditions – such a system will help ships navigate during future manned missions.
During the Artemis I mission, it was planned to test the readiness of the Orion spacecraft and the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket for future flights with crews on board. If everything goes as planned, astronauts will fly around the moon as early as 2024 during the Artemis II mission, and the next mission will be a landmark one – as it involves the return of people to the Earth’s only satellite for the first time in more than 50 years – near the south pole.
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