After some days of travel, the Orion capsule performed its closest approach to the Moon during its path. Only 130 km (81 miles) divided the dry lunar surface from the cold steel of the capsule. During a conference on Nov 21, it was confirmed by NASA that another huge step was taken in the completion of the mission:
“The vehicle continues to operate extraordinarily”Howard Hu, Orion program manager at NASA
During the flyby, the onboards cameras capture some incredible photos, which are of extreme importance not only for monitoring the external status and attitude of the vehicle but also for our bedrooms, which can proudly welcome some new hot posters like that in this picture.
With the flyby of our natural satellite, Orion is in the middle of the roadmap. The burn is the first of two maneuvers required to enter the distant retrograde orbit (DRO) around the Moon. The spacecraft will perform the DRO insertion burn on Friday, Nov 25, using the European Service Module. During the trip, the capsule deployed 10 CubeSat.
Some special Guest
NASA has granted the opportunity to international partners and universities to take advantage of the launcher’s overabundant payload capacity and the unused volume in the interstage. NASA has planned three release sites in the path between the Earth and the Moon. The satellites will test several innovative propulsion technologies, guided by sensors that recognize the position of stars and galaxies. The challenge was accepted with the construction of 10 CubeSats, satellites with reduced weight and dimensions, simple to build, and with cutting-edge technologies. In the end, the capsule will remain in orbit around the moon for a week, after that it will perform a new engine burn and start returning to Earth.
The Orion capsule, the worthy heir of the legendary Apollo capsule is the first human-rated spacecraft designed for interplanetary travel or so-called deep-space missions, that will help in a new era of space exploration. The first challenge is hopping on the Moon but as humans, we will “always persevere” and aim even on Mars.
To face all these challenges, engineers created something at the borders of science fiction. Built by Lockheed Martin, Orion is the most technologically advanced capsule in all of its aspects. Some of the most important are:
- Life support system: advanced environmental control and life support systems designed for long-duration missions.
- Heat Shield: designed to take extreme temperatures of 2760 °C (5,000°F) coming back from the Moon.
- Propulsion System: the service module has 33 engines.
- Radiation Protection: needed to protect crew and spacecraft systems from cosmic and solar radiation seen in deep space.