Take a closer look at NASA’s Orion spacecraft that will fly to the moon and back

The future of space exploration

Artemis I will pave the way for NASA’s first crewed mission to the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972. It will fly beyond the moon, and “take us farther than we’ve gone before, including to the vicinity of the moon and Mars,” NASA says on its website.

“Named after one of the largest constellations in the night sky and drawing from more than 50 years of spaceflight research and development,” NASA continues, “the Orion spacecraft is designed to meet the evolving needs of our nation’s deep space exploration program for decades to come.”

Orion’s trajectory will take it far beyond the moon, and it’s something that’s been carefully planned by NASA and its partners, including Draper, which won the first Apollo 11 contract in the 60’s. Draper will provide advanced guidance, navigation, and control for Artemis I. The Orion Crew Module, meanwhile, was built by Lockheed Martin, while the European Service Module was built by Airbus Defence and Space.

For Artemis I, Orion will perform a crewless flyby of the moon. Shortly after launch, it will detach from SLS and deploy into low Earth orbit. After orbiting Earth, Orion will be slung towards the moon, where it will perform a number of main engine burns to alter its trajectory before making its way back towards Earth.

If Artemis I does launch on August 29, it is expected to return and make a splashdown over the Pacific Ocean on October 10. The mission will have lasted approximately 42 days. Artemis II will send astronauts on the same journey around the moon, aboard Orion. For Artemis III, however, NASA has contracted SpaceX’s Starship launch vehicle to send astronauts back to the surface of the moon.

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