Orion has just completed half of its mission and got the furthest it will ever get away from Earth. And in these last two weeks, it has brought us stunning views of the Moon – some up close and some of the whole Moon-Earth system, all of them spectacular. NASA has shared some of them on its Flickr page.
Many of the images were taken by the cameras mounted on the solar panels. These allow the mission team to monitor the health of the spacecraft. This mission, known as Artemis I, is uncrewed and it is a testbed for the Orion spacecraft to make sure that it will be safe for astronauts, once they travel in it.
Orion also uses its Optical Navigation Camera to take pictures of the surface of the Moon. This device will be used in the future to better orient the spacecraft during crewed missions. It is being tested now by taking pictures of the Earth and Moon in different lighting conditions and at different distances. That data is not relevant to us, but we can enjoy the spectacular views of the Moon that were captured by the instrument.
The mission has a length of over 25 days. Orion is expected to splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego, at 12:40 pm EST on December 11. The mission has so far been extremely successful and, all being well, this is the first step in a long-lasting Artemis program. The next planned mission – Artemis II – will be crewed, and it is expected to launch in two years’ time.