A screenshot of the Orion spacecraft, the Moon, and Earth. NASA.

NASA’s Artemis I Mission is Heading Back Home

The Orion spacecraft has performed one of two maneuvers that will set its trajectory to Earth. It is expected to splash down in the Pacific Ocean on December 11.


The Artemis I mission is on its 16 day of operating in space, and the spacecraft is preparing to return home. NASA’s Orion s[acecraft has left its distant lunar orbit and is traveling toward Earth, set to end its journey on December 11, when it is expected to splash down successfully. The spacecraft successfully completed the distant retrograde departure burn at 3:53 pm CST, as the main engine was fired for 1 minute 45 seconds in preparation for a close lunar flyby before returning to Earth. As a result of the burn, Orion’s velocity increased by about 454 feet per second. Its main engine was used on the European Service Module to perform the operation.

Developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne, the engine is a modified engine for the orbital maneuvering system on Orion. This engine is capable of producing 6,000 pounds of thrust. From STS-41G in October 1984 until STS-112 in October 2002, the proven engine on Artemis I has flown on 19 shuttle missions.


December 11 splashdown

In preparation for Orion’s splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11, two burning maneuvers are required to get the spacecraft in the right direction for Earth. According to NASA, the second burn will occur on Monday, Dec. 5. At that time, the spacecraft will be located 79.2 miles above the lunar surface. Precisely then, it will turn its engine on, performing the last burn, which will commit Orion to its course toward Earth. Also, during their eighth and final planned test, the teams continued to test the star trackers’ thermal performance. A star tracker measures the position of stars to assist a spacecraft in determining its orientation. A team of engineers evaluated data from the star tracker during the first three flight days of the mission. They wanted to understand how thruster firings correlated with the readings from the star tracker.

Orion’s auxiliary thrusters will fine-tune the spacecraft’s trajectory shortly after 9:53 pm CST on December 2. As of 4:30 pm CST on Dec. 1, Orion was traveling at a speed of 2,300 miles per hour, 237,600 miles from Earth, and 52,900 miles from the Moon. The Artemis II mission is expected to take astronauts around the Moon. Artemis III will be the mission to return astronauts to the lunar surface.


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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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