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NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft breaks a record set by Apollo 13

We now have a new record holder in Houston: The Apollo 13 spacecraft’s 1970 record of 248,655 kilometers has been surpassed by NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft.

Twelve days have passed since the launch of the Artemis I mission. The Artemis-launched spacecraft Orion is now more than 267,000 miles away from the Earth and around 44,000 miles away from the moon. It is traveling at a constant speed of 1,705 miles per hour.

The record for the farthest distance a human-related spacecraft has ever gone from Earth was broken by Orion on Saturday at 8:40 a.m. ET. The previous record holder was Apollo 13, with a distance of 248,655 statute miles from Earth. More than 50 years ago, Apollo sent the first humans to the moon.

Orion is expected to go up to 268,552 miles from Earth. That objective is anticipated to be fulfilled sometime on Monday.

NASA Orion Moon
The NASA Orion spacecraft captured this image of the Moon during its sixth day of flight, as it approached its first outbound powered flyby of the Artemis I mission and its closest lunar approach.

The spacecraft is “in a predicted period of no transmission” as of Monday afternoon at about 1 p.m. ET. As with all space communications, the Moon now stands in the way of the Deep Space Network and Orion monitoring stations, preventing us from having a line of sight to send and receive messages.

The spacecraft has entered what’s called a “distant retrograding orbit,” or DRO. DRO is regarded by NASA as a kind of stress test. In order to test Orion’s systems in an environment farther from Earth, DRO offers a very stable orbit where minimal fuel is needed to remain for a long journey in deep space.

Without a crew on board the first trip, according to Mike Sarafin, the mission manager for Artemis, “DRO permits Orion to spend longer time in deep space for a demanding mission to guarantee spacecraft systems, such as guidance, navigation, communication, power, thermal management, and others, are ready to keep people safe on future crewed flights.”

The orbit is “distant” because it is located at a great distance from the lunar surface, and it is “retrograde” because Orion will circle the moon in the opposite direction that the moon orbits the earth.
At its farthest point beyond the Moon, Orion must complete either half or one-and-a-half rotations during its DRO phase.

Orion will begin its journey back to Earth when its DRO departs. On December 11, Splashdown will take place in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego, serving as its last test. The heat shield’s durability will be tested during this stress test. Upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, the capsule will likely be subjected to temperatures in excess of 5,000 °F.

In order to assess Artemis 1’s potential for future missions carrying people to the Moon, it is now on an unmanned mission. Artemis II is scheduled to launch the first of them in 2024 or 2025.

Source: NBC Boston

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Written by Alex Bruno

Freelance space writer Alex Bruno specializes in covering China's quickly expanding space industry. In 2021, he started writing for SpaceXMania. He also contributes to publications including SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, and New Scientist. When Alex was a small child, he first experienced the space bug after seeing Voyager photographs of alien planets in our solar system. When not in space, Alex likes to go trail jogging in the Finnish countryside.

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