NASA’s Orion capsule is entering a distant orbit around the moon

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA’s Orion capsule entered an orbit that stretched tens of thousands of kilometers around the Moon on Friday as it neared the halfway point of its test flight.

The capsule and its three test dummies entered lunar orbit more than a week after launch $4 billion demo this should pave the way for astronauts. It will remain in this wide but stable orbit for almost a week, completing just half a lap before heading home.

At the time of engine firing on Friday, the capsule was 238,000 miles (380,000 kilometers) from Earth. It is expected to reach a maximum distance of almost 270,000 miles (432,000 kilometers) in a few days. That will one day set a new distance record for a capsule designed to carry people.

“It’s a statistic, but it’s symbolic of what it represents,” Jim Geffre, an Orion manager, said in a NASA interview earlier this week. “It’s about challenging ourselves to go further, stay longer and push the boundaries of what we’ve explored so far.”

NASA is considering this as a dress rehearsal for the next moon flyby in 2024 with astronauts. A moon landing by astronauts could follow as early as 2025. Astronauts last visited the moon 50 years ago during Apollo 17.

Earlier this week, Mission Control in Houston lost contact with the capsule for nearly an hour. At that time, the controllers adjusted the communications link between Orion and the Deep Space Network. Officials said the spacecraft remained healthy.


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Sarah Y. Kim

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