NASA releases image of the far side of the moon as Orion passes by

Nearly a week after the start of the Artemis I mission, NASA’s Orion module made its first pass by the moon and sent its first pictures from the satellite on the far side of the planet. That includes a look at the “dark side” of the moon and its huge Mare Orientale moon mare. It now appears to be breaking the record for farthest distance traveled by a human-pilotable spacecraft, a record previously set by Apollo 14.

“The mission is proceeding as we planned, and the ground systems, our operations teams and the Orion spacecraft continue to exceed expectations, and we continue to learn about this new deep space spacecraft along the way,” Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager, said. Monday in a NASA briefing.

Orion is one of the key pieces of the Artemis I puzzle, a mission that finally launched into space earlier this month after a series of delays. Using data captured by the unmanned craft, NASA hopes to return with a crewed flight as part of the Artemis II mission. Artemis III will then return astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972.

“What an incredible sight to see NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft launch together for the first time. This uncrewed flight test will push Orion to its limits in the rigors of deep space, helping us prepare for human exploration on the Moon and, eventually, Mars,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said of the launch.

“It’s taken a lot of effort to get here, but Orion is now on its way to the moon,” added Jim Free, NASA’s deputy assistant administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. “This successful launch means that NASA and our partners are on track to explore further into space than ever before for the benefit of humanity.”

If Artemis I ultimately succeeds, Artemis II will see the same systems piloted by a crew of four astronauts. Artemis III – currently scheduled for 2024 – would then return astronauts to the moon for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972.

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