The next major phase of NASA’s mission is . Orion is scheduled to conduct a burn at 4:52PM ET that will take it into a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon. The uncrewed spacecraft will be around 50,000 miles above the lunar surface and it will travel around the Moon in the opposite direction that the Moon orbits the Earth (hence the “retrograde” aspect of this phase).
says that, due to the size of the orbit, it will take Orion six days to go halfway around the Moon. It will then exit the orbit and start making its way back to Earth. The agency that this process will provide Orion with a “highly stable orbit where little fuel is required to stay for an extended trip in deep space.” The orbit is stable because Orion will be subject to the gravitational pull of both the Earth and the Moon, which will help it to stay in position while minimizing fuel consumption.
During the distant retrograde orbit, NASA will be able to put Orion’s systems through their paces in an environment far away from our planet. The Artemis 1 mission is primarily about testing Orion before the spacecraft takes humans back to the Moon for the first time in over half a century.
Earlier this week, Orion successfully wherein it got as close as 81 miles to the lunar surface. This was the first of two maneuvers needed to get Orion into its retrograde orbit before today’s burn.
You’ll be able to watch the distant retrograde orbit burn live below. NASA says the feed will include real-time views of the mission whenever bandwidth allows.
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