Three days after leaving Florida for the Moon, the Orion spacecraft is outperforming expectations.
NASA officials said on Friday that the spacecraft will soon send humans to the Moon. The first time since the final Apollo mission in 1972.
The purpose of this first test flight without a crew is to ensure the vehicle’s safety. Artemis 1 is performing better than expected, according to mission director Mike Sarafin.
According to Jim Geffre, the Orion manager at Houston’s Johnson Space Center, the spacecraft’s four solar panels. Each measuring about 13 feet (four metres) long, are correctly deployed and producing more energy than expected.
Orion is about 200,000 miles (320,000 kilometres) from Earth and is preparing to launch the first of the mission’s four main thrusts.
Taking advantage of the Moon’s gravitational pull, this Monday morning manoeuvre will bring the spacecraft as close to the lunar surface as 80 miles (130 kilometres).
Because this will occur on the far side of the Moon, NASA expects the spacecraft to lose contact for approximately 35 minutes.
The ship will travel 40,000 kilometres beyond the Moon in search of a livable capsule.
It will begin its return trip to Earth after approximately 25 days of flight, with a landing in the Pacific Ocean scheduled for December 11.
If this mission is successful, it will pave the way for Artemis 2 to fly astronauts around the Moon without landing. And Artemis 3 to eventually return people to the lunar surface.
Both missions are scheduled to launch in 2024 and 2025.