The Orion capsule, protagonist of NASA’s historic Artemis I mission, splashed down this Sunday without complications in the waters of the Pacific Ocean after a 25-day journey around the Moon. This operation, postponed four times until the final launch on November 16, is the step prior to an ambitious mission planned by the US space agency for 2024 and 2025 respectively, when it is expected to send four astronauts to the surface of the satellite. .
“The last chapter of NASA’s trip to the Moon comes to an end. Orion, back on Earth,” confirmed Rob Navias, a member of NASA’s Communications office, this Sunday during the descent of the capsule, which ends the unmanned Artemis I mission after 25 days, which is intended to be the prelude to subsequent missions to once again have a human presence on Earth’s satellite.
Orión splashed down in the waters of the Mexican Pacific, in Baja California, at 11:40 a.m. local time, with the deployment of eleven parachutes -and inflatable balls to keep her upright against the waves-, which allowed her to slow down from more than 500 kilometers per hour at just over 30 with which he touched water.
Previously, the spacecraft reached Earth’s atmosphere at 40,000 km/h, 32 times the speed of sound. And during its lunar journey it came to exceed an exposure of almost 3,000 degrees Celsius, a challenge in the desire to return human presence to the Moon and for which a five-meter heat shield was built.
“It is historic, we started a new stage in deep space with a new generation of technology,” exhorted Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator, in statements to the entity.
A few minutes later, US Navy helicopters flew over the area to confirm the success of the mission and the good condition of the ship after traveling more than two million kilometers since it took off on November 16.
Likewise, a Navy ship from the North American country will recover the capsule from the seabed, evaluate how its temperature evolves after the high heat exposures to which it has been subjected in the last three weeks and will transport it to San Diego, California, in a first step to its final destination, which is the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, from where it took off. There they should continue their studies on the state of Orion.
The successful end of the mission was applauded on social networks by the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, who exclaimed that this fact means being “one step closer to the return of astronauts to the Moon.”
In addition, Orion’s return to Earth has occurred on a symbolic date for the world of space exploration, since it was precisely November 11, 50 years ago when Gene Cernan, a military pilot, and geologist Harrison Schmitt, both astronauts of the Apollo XVII mission, stepped on the Moon for the last time to date.
A historic mission that took time to happen
Four failed attempts – two launches – had to occur before Artemis I successfully concluded on Sunday. Expectations were on the rise for months in Caño Cañaveral, Florida, where the main operational epicenter of NASA space activities is located, until the Orion capsule was finally launched on November 16.
A multi-million dollar mission, valued at 4,000 million dollars and which has used the cooperation of more than 30,000 people from the US and European space agencies, ESA, which built the water and oxygen carrier module for the astronauts, as well as the system of solar panels and propulsion.
The objective of Artemis I was to lead future missions and test NASA’s Space Launch System, the most ambitious rocket in the history of space exploration, weighing 2,600 tons.
However, this mission was not manned: on board Orion there were only three mannequins and two dolls of fictional characters, specifically ‘Shaun the Sheep’, known in the Spanish-speaking world as ‘Shaun the sheep’, and the dog ‘ Snoopy’.
After the success of the mission, now the next steps for the US space agency are to launch Artemis II in 2024, in which four astronauts can circumnavigate the Moon, and in 2025 to launch Artemis III, when the four crew members, including the first woman in history, as well as a black person, can, if all goes well, step on the ground of the satellite for the first time since Apollo XVII.
That is the great challenge for NASA before facing the most ambitious project of its existence, which deals with sending a human expedition to Mars starting in 2040.
With EFE and international media
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