NASA’s uncrewed Orion spacecraft returned to Earth and made a parachute-assisted splashdown on Sunday in the Pacific Ocean after 25.5 days of traveling around the moon as part of the Artemis I mission.
Artemis I is an unmanned flight test that took off on Nov. 16 from a launch complex at Kennedy Space Center in Florida to evaluate the performance of the Space Launch System rocket and capabilities of Orion to support future lunar exploration missions, NASA said Monday.
Orion traveled over 1.4 million miles and carried out two lunar flybys during the mission. The spacecraft’s crew module separated from the service module before entering the Earth’s atmosphere and endured temperatures about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit during the re-entry phase.
Technicians will offload and move the spacecraft to Kennedy Space Center in the next few days. Upon arrival at the facility, research teams will then unload several payloads of Orion and analyze and test the heat shield and the capsule in the coming months.
NASA’s industry partners on the Artemis I mission are Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Jacobs.
Boeing designed, developed and produced the launch vehicle, core and upper stages and the flight avionics suite and Lockheed built the Orion spacecraft.
Northrop supplied the twin solid rocket boosters, while Aerojet Rocketdyne contributed 39 propulsive components, including the RS-25 and RL10 engines.
Jacobs assembled, integrated and tested the rocket, provided launch and recovery support and developed Artemis ground and launch control software.
“[NASA’s Artemis I] mission has paved the way for a new era of scientific discovery and human exploration of deep space,” said Steve Arnette, executive vice president and president of critical mission solutions at Jacobs.
He added that Jacobs teams are committed to delivering innovative platforms and technologies in support of NASA’s efforts to advance space exploration and science through future Artemis missions.