Far Out

Orion sets a new spaceflight record on Artemis Moon orbit

Artemis is living up to its inspirations.

NASA

NASA/Keegan Barber

NASA’s Artemis I craft launched just before 2 a.m. Eastern on November 16, sending the Orion spacecraft on a mission to pave the way for the first crewed Moon mission since Apollo.

NASA

On the way to that lofty goal, it’s already broken a record set by Apollo 13.

On November 16,

the first day of Orion’s flight, it was already sending us astounding images of Earth.

NASA

By day two,

Earth had dwindled in its view. More than just keepsakes of its trip, these images of Earth and the Moon at different distances will help NASA engineers judge how well Orion’s navigation camera can help orient it in space.

NASA

NASA

Orion came within 80 miles of the Moon’s surface before moving into orbit on November 21. At its closest point to the Moon, Orion’s navigation camera captured these stunning views of the lunar surface.

The images Orion gathered

are the closest photos of the Moon taken by a human-rated craft since Apollo. But it’s when Orion left the Moon that it really made history.

NASA

The Artemis I mission is testing an elliptical lunar orbit that will later be used in crewed missions. The orbit takes Orion 40,000 miles beyond the Moon.

NASA

Before the Artemis mission,

Apollo 13 set the record for the farthest a spacecraft meant for human passengers had flown from Earth.

NASA

NASA

As it orbited the Moon on its far side on Flight Day 11, Orion surpassed Apollo’s record of 248,655 miles from Earth, and it wasn’t done yet.

At 268,563 miles from Earth,

Orion reached its maximum distance on November 28, capturing this image of a distant Earth and Moon in the process.

NASA

To honor the debt Artemis owes to Apollo, Orion carries a manikin named Commander Moonikin Campos. It’s named after Arturo Campos, the engineer who devised a way to bring Apollo 13’s command module safely to Earth after the service module oxygen tank ruptured.

NASA

With its mission accomplished, Orion has fired its thrusters for its trip back to Earth on December 1.

NASA

ESA

Orion continues its work on the way home, performing four additional systems tests to help NASA prepare for Artemis II in 2024.