Moonbound: One Year Since Artemis I
On this day last year, the Artemis I rocket and spacecraft lit up the sky and embarked on the revolutionary mission to the Moon and back. The first integrated flight test of the rocket and spacecraft continued for 25.5 days, validating NASA’s deep exploration systems and setting the stage for humanity’s return to the lunar surface.
On Nov. 16, 2022, the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket met or exceeded all expectations during its debut launch on Artemis I. The twin solid rocket booster motors responsible for producing more than 7 million pounds of thrust at liftoff reached their performance target, helping SLS and the Orion spacecraft reach a speed of about 4,000 mph in just over two minutes before the boosters separated.
Quite a few payloads caught a ride aboard the Orion spacecraft on the Artemis I mission: In addition to a number of small scientific satellites called CubeSats, a manikin named Commander Moonikin Campos sat in the commander’s seat. A Snoopy doll served as a zero-gravity indicator — something that floats inside the spacecraft to demonstrate microgravity.
During the mission, Orion performed two lunar flybys, coming within 80 miles of the lunar surface. At its farthest distance during the mission, Orion traveled nearly 270,000 miles from our home planet, more than 1,000 times farther than where the International Space Station orbits Earth. This surpassed the record for distance traveled by a spacecraft designed to carry humans, previously set during Apollo 13.
The Orion spacecraft arrived back home to planet Earth on Dec. 11, 2022. During re-entry, Orion endured temperatures about half as hot as the surface of the Sun at about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Within about 20 minutes, Orion slowed from nearly 25,000 mph to about 20 mph for its parachute-assisted splashdown.
Recovery teams successfully retrieved the spacecraft and delivered it back to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for de-servicing operations, which included removing the payloads (like Snoopy and Commander Moonikin Campos) and analyzing the heat shield.
With the Artemis I mission under our belt, we look ahead to Artemis II — our first crewed mission to the Moon in over 50 years. Four astronauts will fly around the Moon inside Orion, practicing piloting the spacecraft and validating the spacecraft’s life support systems. The Artemis II crew includes: NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, and Christina Koch, and CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen.
As we look ahead to Artemis II, we build upon the incredible success of the Artemis I mission and recognize the hard work and achievements of the entire Artemis team. Go Artemis!
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