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Historic moon mission ends with splashdown of Orion capsule Empty Historic moon mission ends with splashdown of Orion capsule

周一 12月 12, 2022 4:59 am
The Artemis I mission — a 25½-day uncrewed test flight around the moon meant to pave the way for future astronaut missions — came to a momentous end as NASA’s Orion spacecraft made a successful ocean splashdown Sunday.

The spacecraft finished the final stretch of its journey, closing in on the thick inner layer of Earth’s atmosphere after traversing 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers) between the moon and Earth. It splashed down at 12:40 p.m. ET Sunday in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico’s Baja California.

This final step was among the most important and dangerous legs of the mission.
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But after splashing down, Rob Navias, the NASA commentator who led Sunday’s broadcast, called the reentry process “textbook.”

“I’m overwhelmed,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Sunday. “This is an extraordinary day.”

The capsule is now bobbing in the Pacific Ocean, where it will remain until nearly 3 p.m. ET as NASA collects additional data and runs through some tests. That process, much like the rest of the mission, aims to ensure the Orion spacecraft is ready to fly astronauts.

We’re testing all of the heat that has come and been generated on the capsule. We want to make sure that we characterize how that’s going to affect the interior of the capsule,” NASA flight director Judd Frieling told reporters last week.

A fleet of recovery vehicles — including boats, a helicopter and a US Naval ship called the USS Portland — are waiting nearby.

What happened
The spacecraft was traveling about 32 times the speed of sound (24,850 miles per hour or nearly 40,000 kilometers per hour) as it hit the air — so fast that compression waves caused the outside of the vehicle to heat to about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius).

“The next big test is the heat shield,” Nelson had told CNN in a phone interview Thursday, referring to the barrier designed to protect the Orion capsule from the excruciating physics of reentering the Earth’s atmosphere.

The extreme heat also caused air molecules to ionize, creating a buildup of plasma that caused a 5½-minute communications blackout, according to Artemis I flight director Judd Frieling.

INTERACTIVE: Trace the path Artemis I will take around the moon and back

As the capsule reached around 200,000 feet (61,000 meters) above the Earth’s surface, it performed a roll maneuver that briefly sent the capsule back upward — sort of like skipping a rock across the surface of a lake.

There are a couple of reasons for using the skip maneuver.


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