NASA’s Orion capsule has survived the hottest and fastest reentry by a spacecraft, deliberately jumping through the atmosphere before splashing out on the coast of Baja California, Mexico.
Uncrewed capsule launched November 16 atop a 30-story Space Launch System “mega-moon rocket” as part of NASA’s $20 billion budget Artemis 1 The mission made its triumphant return from a record-breaking 26-day, 1.4 million-mile (2.2 million-kilometer) round trip. moon this afternoon at 12:40 PM EST (December 11th). Capable of holding six crew members, the “textbook entry” of the uncrewed capsule is the culmination of an almost flawless test mission. Next time the rocket takes flight, it will be with people on board.
Orion made a “hell-entry” to end its journey and returned hotter and faster than any spacecraft ever – up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (about 2,800 degrees Celsius) as it entered Earth’s atmosphere at roughly 25,000 mph (40,000 km/h). warmed up. h) or 32 times the speed of sound, according to NASA. To return safely, the capsule deliberately slid out of the atmosphere like a stone on the surface of a pond and eventually slowed to just 20 mph (32 km/h) with the added aid of the heat shield and 11 parachutes. After landing safely in the ocean, Orion is in the process of being towed aboard the USS Portland, a US Navy ship.
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“[Orion] it still has all the energy that the launch rocket put into it. “We need to get rid of all that energy—enough to power 4,000 to 5,000 homes a day,” Orion’s thermal protection system manager John Kowal said during a NASA livestream. (opens in new tab) just before landing. “The vehicle comes crashing into the atmosphere and tries to pull air out of the way. This pushes air back, pressures rise, temperatures rise – we’re talking about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. [5538 degrees Celsius] in the flow area [the air around Orion]. The flow field wants to give back that energy, so the heat shield will see it.”
The Artemis 1 flight was the first of three missions designed to be vital test beds for hardware, software, and ground systems designed to one day establish a base on the moon and transport the first humans to Earth. Anthem. This first test flight will be followed by Artemis 2 and Artemis 3 in 2024 and 2025/2026, respectively. Artemis 2 will make the same journey as Artemis 1 with a human crew of four, and Artemis 3 will send the first woman and first non-white person to land on the moon’s surface to the moon’s south pole.
Upon launch, the Artemis 1 rocket accelerated the Orion capsule to 22,600 mph (36,371 km/h) and sent it into lunar orbit in just six days. On November 25, the capsule ignited its engines to enter a high-altitude lunar orbit, breaking the record for the furthest ever traveled from Earth by a spacecraft designed to transport humans, of 270,000 miles (430,000 km). Four days later, the craft fired another slingshot around the Moon and was on its way back to our planet.
Despite months of delays and three launch attempts, Orion’s performance pleased NASA mission controllers. According to NASA, the European Space Agency service module that propels Orion during its journey produced much more power than expected while also using less fuel, and the vehicle closely followed its planned course while capturing some stunning images of Earth and the Moon. A dummy stacked aboard Orion will now test NASA’s exposure to space radiation.
To return safely from the Moon, all spacecraft must hit a small target just over a dozen miles wide in Earth’s atmosphere at just the right angle. It is very sharp and the craft is burned; it is very shallow and bounces off the atmosphere and returns to space.
Orion’s flight engineers deliberately rotated the capsule as it descended to create an atmospheric ricochet – an achievement that reduced the g-force experienced on board from 6.8 to 4, cooling the ship’s heat shield and increasing the target window for re-entry. NASA flight engineers considered skipping reentries during the Apollo program, but the lack of advanced computer modeling or an onboard orientation computer made the difficult maneuver too risky.
“Historic because we are now returning to space, deep space, with a new generation.” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. “This is a program of returning to the moon to learn, live, invent, create to explore beyond.”