NASA’s Artemis I mission spacecraft, Orion, returned to Earth this Sunday after a 25-day mission in lunar orbit, with a scheduled splashdown at 17:40 UTC in the Pacific Ocean near the island of Guadalupe off Baja California. The success of the mission accredits the first stage of a safe system of transport of human beings between the Earth and the Moon.
Just before re-entry into the atmosphere, at 1700 UTC, the equipable module and the service module separated and only the former – in this first flight without astronauts – returned to Earth, while the service module disintegrated in the earth’s atmosphere. Using a new technique, the crew module plunged to the top of Earth’s atmosphere and used that atmosphere, along with the capsule’s ascent, to exit the atmosphere again, then there. enter again for the descent, finish in parachute and splash. This technique will allow a safe re-entry for future Artemis missions, regardless of when and where they return from the Moon, NASA reports.
Orion entered our planet’s atmosphere traveling at 40,000 kilometers per hour and with temperatures of around 2,760 degrees Celsius, which it endured thanks to the largest heat shield ever built. The atmosphere first slowed the spacecraft to 523 km/h, then the parachutes slowed as the spacecraft descended into Earth’s atmosphere.
Parachute deployment began at an altitude of approximately 8 kilometers, with three small parachutes stripping the craft’s forward decks. With the foredeck detached from the craft, two buoyant parachutes slowed and stabilized the crew module for main parachute deployment. At an altitude below 3,000 meters with a spacecraft speed of 210 km/h, three pilot parachutes raised and deployed the main parachutes. These 35-meter-diameter nylon web parachutes slowed Orion’s crew pod to a splash speed of only about 30 km/h.
The parachute system includes 11 parachutes made from 11,000 square meters of material. The canopy is attached to the top of the spacecraft with more than 20 kilometers of Kevlar lines which are deployed in series using cannon-type mortars, pyrotechnic thrusters and bolt cutters.
Once in the water, rescue teams proceeded to recover the capsule and any possible equipment thrown during the landing, including the craft’s foredeck and the three main parachutes.
Artemis I is the first integrated flight test of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, uncrewed Orion spacecraft, and ground systems at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center. The mission will pave the way for a crewed test flight and future human lunar exploration under the Artemis program.
During this 25-day flight, the Orion spacecraft flew farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown, more than 450,000 kilometers from Earth, thousands of kilometers beyond the Moon, and has been in space longer than any astronaut spacecraft without docking with a space station, returning to Earth faster and enduring hotter than ever.
Orion flew just over 100 kilometers above the Moon’s surface at the start of its mission, then used the Moon’s gravitational pull to propel itself into a new deep retrograde, or opposite, orbit at about 70,000 km from the Moon. The spacecraft remained in this orbit for approximately six days to collect data and allow mission controllers to assess the performance of the spacecraft.
For its return trip to Earth, Orion performed another close flyby of the Moon and used another engine precisely synchronized from the service module, provided by ESA, as well as the Moon’s gravity to accelerate towards Earth. .