NASA’s Orion spacecraft transmits live views of the Moon, Earth

NASA’s Orion spacecraft made a critical flyby of the moon to ensure it was placed in orbit around the moon on Monday, and along the way, it shared gorgeous views of Earth and the back of the moon.

The spacecraft launched on its Artemis 1 test flight from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on November 19, beginning its 240,000th trip to the moon.

Orion, built by Lockheed Martin for NASA, is equipped with cameras inside and outside the spacecraft. After launching on a NASA Space Launch System rocket, Orion began sharing views of Earth.

As Orion began its closest approach to the Moon, NASA once again shared live views of the Moon and Earth as seen from the spacecraft. Early Monday, Orion was more than 230,000 miles from home, quickly closing the gap to the Moon. The images were provided by cameras on the Orion solar arrays or the spacecraft’s “selfie stick”.

At a 6:44 a.m. CT scan, Orion’s orbital engines (OEMs) lit up for about two minutes to propel the spacecraft into a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon. Prior to this burn, NASA had lost signal with Orion for about 34 minutes as it reached the far side of the Moon farthest from Earth.

This screenshot from NASA TV shows NASA’s Orion capsule, left, approaching the Moon, right, on Monday, November 21, 2022.
AP
This post from NASA Television shows NASA's Orion spacecraft approaching the Moon on Monday, November 21, 2022.
This post from NASA Television shows NASA’s Orion spacecraft approaching the Moon on Monday, November 21, 2022.
AP
Engineers activate the Callisto payload, demonstrating Lockheed Martin technology in collaboration with Amazon and Cisco on the Orion spacecraft.  Callisto will test audio and video technology that may aid future astronauts on deep space missions.
Engineers activate the Callisto payload, demonstrating Lockheed Martin technology in collaboration with Amazon and Cisco on the Orion spacecraft. Callisto will test audio and video technology that may aid future astronauts on deep space missions.
NASA Orion/SONES

The space agency reacquired the spacecraft’s signal when Orion exited from behind the Moon. Once again, Orion shared views of Earth’s “pale blue dot” from about 230,000 miles away.

“This is one of those days that you’ve been thinking about and dreaming about for a very long time,” said NASA Flight Director Zeb Scoville. “This morning, we just saw the Earth behind the Moon as we just brought in the next human-rated rover behind the Moon.”

This NASA image released on November 21, 2022 shows a view of the spacecraft, Earth, and Moon captured by a camera on Orion's solar array wing.
This NASA image released on November 21, 2022 shows a view of the spacecraft, Earth, and Moon captured by a camera on Orion’s solar array wing.
NASA Television/AFP via Getty Images
Earth is seen as the flight control team used cameras on Orion's solar wings to perform a comprehensive inspection of the spacecraft.
Earth is seen as the flight control team used cameras on Orion’s solar wings to perform a comprehensive inspection of the spacecraft.
NASA Orion/SONES

At its closest approach on Monday, Orion was 81 miles above the lunar surface, the closest the moon will get during the Artemis 1 mission.

The last time a human-class spacecraft was near the Moon was during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

The Moon is seen when the flight control team used cameras on Orion's solar wings to perform a comprehensive inspection of the spacecraft.
The Moon is seen when the flight control team used cameras on Orion’s solar wings to perform a comprehensive inspection of the spacecraft.
NASA Orion/SONES

If all goes well, Orion will fly more than 40,000 miles after the moon, flying into an orbit opposite the direction in which the moon orbits Earth.

After this maneuver, Orion will enter a retrograde orbit about six days before the start of the spaceflight to Earth.

Orion does not have a crew on board for this first flight but carries several dummies with sensors to help NASA understand what the astronauts on the Artemis II mission will experience in less than two years.

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