On the third day of its space mission, the performance of the Orion spacecraft on its way to the Moon after liftoff from Florida is “beyond expectations,” as NASA cheered Friday.
This new capsule is set to take astronauts to the Moon in the coming years and will be the first to set foot on its surface since the last Apollo mission in 1972. safely.
“Today we have gathered to review the performance of the Orion spacecraft (…) and it is beyond all expectations,” Mike Sarafin, who is in charge of this mission called Artemis, said during a press conference.
The spacecraft’s four solar panels, about 4 meters long, are deployed correctly and “provide more power” than expected, said Jim Geffre, who is in charge of Orion at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. It is there, in Texas, that the control center is located, from which the ship is controlled.
Orion is already at a distance of about 320,000 km from Earth and is preparing to perform on its engines the first of four main thrusts programmed during the mission.
The maneuver, which will take place early Monday morning, will bring the spacecraft about 100 km closer to the moon’s surface to take advantage of its gravitational force. Since this will take place behind the far side of the Moon, NASA is expected to lose contact with the spacecraft for about 35 minutes.
“We’re going to fly over some of the Apollo landing sites,” said Jeff Radigan, NASA’s flight director, even if they were in shadow. Video of the flight will be later.
Four days later, the second thrust of the engines will put Orion into a distant orbit around the Moon. The ship will follow it up to 64,000 km – a record for a habitable capsule.
It will then begin its journey back to Earth with a landing in the Pacific Ocean scheduled for December 11, after just over 25 days of flight.
The success of this mission depends on the future of Artemis 2, which will take astronauts around the moon without landing, and then Artemis 3, which will finally mark the return of people to the lunar surface. These missions are officially scheduled for 2024 and 2025 respectively.
Mike Sarafin also clarified on Friday that 10 scientific microsatellites were indeed deployed when the rocket launched, but half of them were experiencing technical or communication problems. These experiments, conducted independently by independent teams, do not affect the main mission.