'Outstanding' Orion Still Faces One of Its Biggest Trials

Dec. 11 entry into Earth's atmosphere will test its heat shield
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2022 7:27 AM CST
'Outstanding' Orion Adds to Distance Record
In this image provided by NASA, the Earth and its moon are seen from NASA's Orion spacecraft on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022.   (NASA via AP)

NASA's Orion spacecraft has reached its maximum distance from Earth, a record-setting 268,563 miles. The spacecraft that launched Nov. 16 reached the halfway point in its 26-day mission on Monday as it looped around the moon. It was 43,138 miles beyond the far side of the moon, adding to the record for distance traveled by a spacecraft designed to carry humans, per CNN. The spacecraft—which captured images of the moon appearing to eclipse the Earth—previously beat the 248,655-mile record set by the Apollo 13 mission of 1970. This uncrewed mission is a test ahead of the Artemis II mission which will send humans around the moon as soon as May 2024.

Mission manager Mike Sarafin said 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," per the BBC. Orion Program Manager Howard Hu called Orion's performance "outstanding," producing 20% more power than is needed, per CNN. It has also "used much less fuel than expected," per the BBC. "It's incredible just how smoothly this mission has gone," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. But "the biggest test after the launch is the reentry because we want to know that that heat shield works at about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit." Orion will fire its engines Thursday to put it on course to enter Earth's atmosphere on Dec. 11. (Read more NASA stories.)

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