Artemis I continues to break records and reap successes. On Monday, the spacecraft Orion got to 432,210 kilometers (268,563 miles) away from Earth, the furthest point in this mission and the furthest a human-grade spacecraft has ever gone.
The mission has passed the halfway point and is now in its 14th day of 25 and a half. And things are going so well that the engineering team has decided to do even more tests on the spacecraft. The vehicle is uncrewed for exactly this reason, to test it to the limit and make sure it is safe for astronauts.
"This halfway point teaches us to number our days so that we can get a heart of wisdom," Mike Sarafin, Nasa's Artemis mission manager, said during a press conference. "The halfway point affords us an opportunity to step back and then look at what our margins are and where we could be a little smarter to buy down risk and understand the spacecraft's performance for crewed flight on the very next mission."
Everything going well, Orion will splash down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:40 p.m. ET on December 11, not far from San Diego. The returned capsule will then pave the way for the first crewed launch of the Artemis program – Artemis II – in about two years’ time.
“Because of the unbelievable can-do spirit, Artemis I has had extraordinary success and has completed a series of history-making events,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, said in a statement. “It’s incredible just how smoothly this mission has gone, but this is a test. That’s what we do – we test it and we stress it.”
The spacecraft conducted a livestream from its very distant orbit, showing the Earth and the Moon as seen from deep space.