The last view of Earth from space from NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion
To paraphrase a famous space movie, Earth was getting terrifyingly large in the window of NASA’s last lunar mission as it headed toward our planet.
The Orion spacecraft transported home an epic live video of our home planet in the last hours of Artemis 1 while piloting for water landing today (December 11).
The uncrewed mission was a shakedown cruise to prove the Artemis program is ready for humans, and Artemis 1 has indeed passed all the major milestones: a launch of the untested Space Launch Systemin orbit the moon and survive a high-speed re-entry to splash down in the Pacific Ocean near a recovery vessel.
In picture : 10 Best Images From NASA’s Artemis 1 Mission
Orion is a human-sized spacecraft that flew further into space that the former record holder Apollo 13, which hosted three astronauts who circled the moon instead of landing due to a spacecraft emergency. (The movie cited in the first sentence of this story was the eponymous 1995 “Apollo 13” which starred Tom Hanks as Commander Jim Lovell.)
Splashdown for Artemis 1 came on another’s birthday Apollo program milestone: the landing date of Apollo 17which was the last human mission to land on the moon so far on December 11, 1972. NASA hopes to bring people back to the surface within three years.
Artemis 2 will come first, which will bring a crew around the moon to test the life support systems, as Artemis 1 did not host any aboard the spacecraft. Provided the mission flies as planned in 2024, Artemis 3 should follow and put the astronauts back on the Moon in 2025 or 2026.
NASA is also building a support lunar space station called bridge, which is not on the critical landing path but will still provide a perch for human crews for future Artemis missions. The agency plans to bring many missions to the surface, both crewed and unmanned, in the 2020s and beyond.
Elizabeth Howell is co-author of “Why am I taller (opens in a new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book on space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Where Facebook (opens in a new tab).