Following its spectacular launch atop NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, November 16, the uncrewed Orion spacecraft on Monday performed a flyby of the moon that took it to within just 81 miles of the lunar surface.
During what is the first mission in NASA’s Artemis program, the flight is testing key technologies for upcoming crewed missions to the moon and beyond.
On Saturday, the Orion will pass the furthest point from Earth traveled by a human-rated spacecraft. That record was set by the Apollo 13 spacecraft 52 years ago when it took three astronauts 248,655 miles beyond Earth.
Two days later, on Monday at 4:06 p.m. ET, the Orion will set a new record when it reaches a point 268,552 miles from Earth.
In the meantime, enjoy this sublime footage (below) captured by one of the Orion’s cameras showing Earth emerging from behind the moon.
“Earth rises from behind the moon in this video captured by a camera on one of Orion’s solar array wings,” NASA said in a comment accompanying the video. “The video was taken at 8:05 a.m. ET on flight day six of the 25.5 day Artemis I mission, shortly after the outbound powered flyby and six minutes after the spacecraft regained connection with NASA’s Deep Space Network.”
NASA said recently that the Artemis I mission has, so far, exceeded expectations. The spacecraft is set to splash down off the coast of California on December 11. After that, NASA will send the Orion on the same journey as part of the Artemis II mission, but this time with astronauts on board. And then, Artemis III will see NASA put the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface in what will be the first astronaut lunar landing since the final Apollo mission in 1972.