In just a few hours, the Orion spacecraft will come back to Earth. It will be performing a maneuver that no other craft designed to carry humans has done before, a skip entry. This will allow for greater control over where the capsule will re-enter. As NASA announced on December 8, Orion will splash down near Isla Guadalupe in the Pacific Ocean.
“At present, we are on track to have a fully successful mission with some bonus objectives that we’ve achieved along the way,” Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager, said in a blog post. “On entry day, we will realize our priority one objective, which is to demonstrate the vehicle at lunar re-entry conditions, as well as our priority three objective, which is to retrieve the spacecraft.”
The original plan was to land off the coast of San Diego, but the weather forecasts suggested that Guadalupe Island was a better and safer zone. Just before re-entry, the crew module and the service module will separate. The former will splash down while the latter will burn safely over the pacific.
The effect of the atmosphere will slow down the capsule to 525 kilometers (325 miles) per hour. The deployment of parachutes will then slow down the capsule even more, and it is expected to enter the water no faster than 32 kilometers (20 miles) per hour.
NASA will be streaming the re-entry proceedings on NASA TV starting at 11 am EST. Orion is expected to splash down at 12:40 pm. You can watch the stream below:
Orion is estimated to have covered more than 2 million kilometers (about 1.3 million miles) in its 25 and a half days in space.