January 30, 2023

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400,171 km (and counting)

400,171 km (and counting)

NOS Newsmodified

At 400,171 kilometers from Earth, the lunar capsule Orion set a new record: no spacecraft designed for human use has yet traveled into space. NASA announced last night that the milestone was reached shortly after Orion was launched into a wide lunar orbit.

The old record was held by the Apollo 13 mission, the lunar flight in 1970 that narrowly ended in disaster due to an onboard defect. As the crew and flight controllers were busy saving the lives of the astronauts at the time, it was not discovered that they had broken the record until years later.

Orion will tighten this old record: until next Monday, the spacecraft will fly away from us, to a final distance of 432,194 kilometers. This is still done without a crew: this flight is an unmanned test flight.

Orion has been flying in space for ten days now. The drone flight, which is part of the Artemis mission, has already produced some beautiful images. In the first week, Orion has already made its first flyby over the Moon, at an altitude of about 130 kilometers.

And it looked like this, swipe right to zoom in more and more:

  • NASA

    An image of the moon taken by Orion for a drone flight in space
  • NASA

    An image of the moon taken by Orion for a drone flight in space
  • NASA

    An image of the moon taken by Orion for a drone flight in space
  • NASA

    An image of the moon taken by Orion for a drone flight in space

Orion is used by NASA in the Artemis program, which is supposed to bring people to the moon again after fifty years. This uncrewed flight is intended to gain experience for manned flights of more than two years.

The cameras also accurately photographed the surface of the moon:

  • NASA

  • NASA

  • NASA

    An image of the moon taken by Orion
  • NASA

    On the other hand, the Earth is clearly visible

This is the first time since 1972 that a lunar rocket has been launched from Florida. A very large platform had to be built to launch the Artemis, because the rocket was the size of the Dom Tower in Utrecht. The Orion capsule is several times smaller, about the size of two campers.

This is what the launch of the Artemis 1 moon rocket looked like:

This is what the launch of the Artemis 1 moon rocket looked like

If all goes well, the spacecraft will return to Earth around December 11th.