The NASA Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft has arrived at the port of San Diego.

NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft has returned to solid ground.

Orion reached Naval Base San Diego on Tuesday (December 13) aboard USS Portland, the US Navy rescue ship that retrieved the capsule from the Pacific on Sunday (December 11) following its successful splashdown.

The spacecraft will unload from Portland on Wednesday (December 14) and then begin its ground transition to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, KSC officials said on Twitter on Tuesday. (will open in a new tab).

In photos: 10 best shots of the NASA Artemis 1 mission

This will be the homecoming for Orion, which launched from KSC on a Space Launch System (SLS) mega rocket on November 16, launching the unmanned Artemis 1 mission.

Everything went well on the shake cruise; The SLS sent Orion on its way to the Moon as planned, and the capsule marked all the desired milestones in deep space.

Orion arrived in lunar orbit on November 25, departed on December 1, and headed for Earth on December 5, starting the engine during a close flyby of the Moon. The spacecraft returned to its home planet Sunday, splashing down gently under parachutes about 100 miles (160 km) west of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft floats in the Pacific Ocean after a successful splashdown on December 11, 2022. (Image credit: NASA TV)

Once Orion arrives at KSC, members of the Artemis 1 team will conduct a thorough inspection, evaluating how the spacecraft and its many subsystems have withstood the test in deep space as well as during the harrowing return journey through Earth’s atmosphere.

Technicians will also remove some of the equipment from the capsule for reprocessing and reuse on Artemis 2, the next mission of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program.

Artemis 2 is scheduled to send astronauts around the moon in 2024. If all goes well with this flight, Artemis 3 will aim to land near the moon’s south pole in a year or two, using a SpaceX spacecraft as a lander.

NASA is aiming to build a research base in the south polar region, which is believed to contain a lot of water ice. The agency also plans to build a small space station in lunar orbit, called the Gateway, which will serve as the starting point for missions to the surface, both crewed and uncrewed.

The first Gateway components are scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in late 2024.

Mike Wall is the author of Out There (will open in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrations by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (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).

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