NASA’s Orion spacecraft for Artemis I, the first in a series of increasingly complex missions on the Moon, returned to Earth on Sunday, December 11, after a 1.4 million-mile journey around the Moon. The spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 9:40 PST, 12:40 EST, completing the agency’s Artemis I flight test.
Artemis I was the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems – Orion, the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket, and the supporting ground systems.
During this flight test, Orion stayed in space longer than any spacecraft designed for astronauts has done without docking to a space station. The spacecraft surpassed the record for distance travelled by a spaceship designed to carry humans, previously set during Apollo 13.
“The splashdown of the Orion spacecraft – which occurred 50 years to the day of the Apollo 17 Moon landing – is the crowning achievement of Artemis I. From the launch of the world’s most powerful rocket to the exceptional journey around the Moon and back to Earth, this flight test is a major step forward in the Artemis Generation of lunar exploration,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.