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Moonbound: One Year Since Artemis I

Moonbound: One Year Since Artemis I

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft launches on the Artemis I flight test, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The body of the rocket is orange, and it has two white boosters and a white spacecraft sitting on top. As the boosters ignite, they illuminate the launch pad, the water towers, and the lightning towers. The night sky is black in the background. Credits: NASA/Keegan BarberALT

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.

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft launches on the Artemis I flight test, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The ignition of the boosters fill the image with a bright golden glow. The night sky is black in the background. Credit: NASA/Joel KowskyALT

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.

The interior of the Orion spacecraft, bathed in a soft blue light. The back of Commander Moonikin Campos’ head can be seen from behind the commander’s seat. He is wearing an orange Orion Crew Survival System spacesuit and is facing the display of the Callisto payload, Lockheed Martin’s technology demonstration in collaboration with Amazon and Cisco. A Snoopy doll can be seen floating in the background. Credit: NASAALT

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. 

On flight day 13 of the Artemis I mission, Orion captured this view of Earth and the Moon on either sides of one of the spacecraft’s four solar arrays. The spacecraft is white and gray and stands out against the blackness of space. Credit: NASAALT

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.

After splashing down at 12:40 p.m. EST on Dec. 11, 2022, U.S. Navy divers help recover the Orion Spacecraft for the Artemis I mission. NASA, the Navy and other Department of Defense partners worked together to secure the spacecraft inside the well deck of USS Portland approximately five hours after Orion splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. Credit: NASA/Josh ValcarcelALT

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. 

Inside the Multi-Payload Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, engineers and technicians opened the hatch of the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission after a 1.4-million mile journey beyond the Moon and back. Technicians extracted nine avionics boxes from the Orion, which will subsequently be refurbished for Artemis II, the first mission with astronauts. Contents include a video processing unit, GPS receiver, four crew module phased array antennas, and three Orion inertial measurement units. Credit: NASAALT

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.  

Artemis II astronauts, from left, NASA astronaut Victor Glover (left), CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen, NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Reid Wiseman stand on the crew access arm of the mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B as part of an integrated ground systems test at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, Sept. 20. The test ensures the ground systems team is ready to support the crew timeline on launch day. Credit: NASA/Frank MichauxALT

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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