The Orion spacecraft, now on its seventh day in the Artemis 1 mission, beamed back some close-up images of the moon.
On Monday, the Orion capsule made its closest approach to the lunar surface during its 25-day spaceflight.
The pass, 81 miles across the far side of the Moon, was followed by a critical engine fire to put the spacecraft on a path to a broad lunar orbit 40,000 miles away, the farthest a human-assessed vehicle has ever traveled. had been from the moon. earth has traveled.
NASA has also released close-up images of the moon taken by Orion as it approaches, as well as an image of the capsule, moon and Earth in the same frame.
Orion’s mission is designed to pave the way for astronauts to fly to the moon on future missions.
Orion’s engines are a variant of the R-4D engine originally developed for the Apollo program and used on every mission to the Moon.
The team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston’s White Flight Control Room continued testing the spacecraft’s star trackers to determine their sensitivity to thermal fluctuations as part of planned tests, and engineers used the optical navigation system to collect additional aggregate images of the moon. to deliver.
The star trackers and optical navigation system are part of Orion’s advanced guidance, navigation and control system, which ensures that the spacecraft always knows where it is in space, what direction it is pointing in and where it is going.
It even controls the propulsion system to keep the spacecraft on course. Optical navigation can serve as a backup later during this mission and in future missions, ensuring a safe trip home if the spacecraft loses communication.
NASA will also test an algorithm designed to restore and maintain communication with Earth in the event of a prolonged loss of communication or after a temporary power failure that forces Orion to reboot its hardware.
Testing this feature gives engineers confidence that it is the last resort to resolve a communication loss when the crew is on board.
On Saturday, Orion will be 248,655 miles from Earth, beating the Apollo 13 record for farthest distance traveled by a human-designed spacecraft, and the spacecraft will reach its maximum distance from Earth of 268,552 miles on Monday.
NASA’s Artemis spacecraft has successfully landed on the moon after finally rocketing away from Earth this month.
The long-delayed space launch system launched on Nov. 19 with the Orion lunar spacecraft crewed by three test dummies.
The capsule will spend nearly a week in lunar orbit before flying home and splashing into the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11.