NASA’s Orion capsule has been traveling among the stars for three days, and the spacecraft has begun returning its first images. On Saturday, the space agency shared a series of snapshots taken by Orion itself, about halfway between Earth and the moon.
“Today we met to assess the performance of the Orion spacecraft, and it exceeds performance expectations.” Artemis I mission manager Mike Sarafin said in a blog post Saturday.
According to the message, Artemis I’s controllers used the cameras to take the “selfies” to assess possible damage to the hull of the uncrewed capsule. “Over the past few days, a team has been reviewing anomalous star tracking data correlated with a thruster firing. Star trackers are sensitive cameras that take pictures of the star field around Orion,” the agency explained. “By comparing the images to the built-in star map, the star tracker can determine which direction Orion is oriented. Teams now understand the measurements and there are no operational changes.”
The SLS with Orion successfully launched earlier this week after a months-long delay due to a number of factors. If all goes according to plan, Orion will reach the moon a few days before making its journey back to Earth before crashing in December.
“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.