The Artemis 1 Orion crew vehicle has set a new record for a NASA flight. At approximately 8:40 a.m. ET Saturday, Orion flew farther than any spacecraft designed to carry human astronauts ever had before, surpassing the previous record set by Apollo 13 in 1970. At 10:17 a.m. ET, Orion was about 249,666 miles (from 401,798 kilometers) from Earth.
“Artemis I was designed to stress Orion’s systems and we settled into far retrograde orbit as a very good way to do that,” said Jim Geffre, responsible for the integration of the Orion spacecraft. “It so happened that with this very large orbit, at high altitude above the moon, we were able to exceed the record of Apollo 13. But what was most important was to push the limits of the exploration and sending spacecraft further than we have ever done before.”
Of all the missions that could have broken the record, it’s only fitting that Artemis 1 is the one that did. As Space.com pointed out, the initial flight plan of Apollo 13 did not provide for a record flight. It was only after a mid-mission explosion forced NASA to chart a new return route that Apollo 13’s Odyssey command module set the previous record at 248,655 miles (400,171 kilometers). of the earth.
With a limited supply of oxygen on the Aquarius lunar module, NASA needed to get Apollo 13 back to Earth as quickly as possible. The agency ultimately settled on a flight path using the Moon’s gravity to send Apollo 13 back to Earth. One of the NASA personnel who was essential to the safe return of astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise was Arturo Campos. He wrote the contingency plan that gave the command and service module enough power to return to Earth. Artemis 1 carries a “Moonikin” test dummy named after the late Arturo.
Earlier this week, Orion conducted a flyby of the Moon. Once the spacecraft completes half an orbit around the satellite, it will launch toward Earth. NASA expects Orion to crash land off San Diego on December 11.
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