After flying to the moon and back, NASA’s spacecraft should finally complete its long journey by the end of 2022.
The Orion spacecraft is on a truck bound for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in coastal Florida after splashing down in the Pacific on Dec. 11 to complete Artemis 1, NASA officials said in an update released late Thursday (December 21). The spacecraft circled the Moon prior to splashdown and has been preparing for a cross-country trip to Florida since arriving at the port of San Diego on Dec. 13.
“Once at Kennedy, technicians will open a hatch and unload several payloads … as part of a dismantlement operation,” NASA officials wrote. (will open in a new tab). “In addition to removing the payload, the Orion heat shield and other elements will be removed for analysis, and the remaining hazards will be removed.”
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Before leaving for the truck, the engineers inspected the Orion’s windows and fitted them with hard covers to protect them from the long overland journey. The crew members also deflated five airbags atop the Orion, which were available in case the spacecraft capsized in the Pacific.
Aside from the biological experiment removed from the Orion shortly after it arrived in port, many of the payloads are still on board the spacecraft. These weird things include, among others, three mannequins, a Snoopy plush doll, Shaun the Sheep, Lego figures, and Amazon’s space version of Alexa.
NASA is expected to name the Artemis 2 crew in early 2023, with the Canadian Space Agency making a side-by-side announcement of its own astronaut on the mission. Artemis 2 will fly around the moon no earlier than 2024 to test life support systems on Orion. The first landing mission, Artemis 3, is expected to send astronauts to the moon around 2025.
Elizabeth Howell is co-author of Why Am I Taller? (will open in a new tab)? (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), space medicine book. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or facebook (will open in a new tab).