NASA’s Artemis 1 mission has set up a new record by reaching the farthest distance from Earth achieved by a human-rated spacecraft. The record was previously held by Apollo 13 on April 15, 1970. The uncrewed Orion spacecraft reached a distance of 268,563 miles (432,200 km) from Earth. While doing so, it sent back images that included the craft, the Earth, and the Moon in one shot.
This event also marked the halfway point for the 25.5-day Artemis 1 mission as Orion moves to a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon that has taken it beyond the Lagrange 2 point where the gravitational pull of the Earth and Moon balance one another out. According to NASA, as of 8:00 pm EST, the spacecraft was 268,457 miles (432,000 km) from Earth and 43,138 miles (69, 420 km) from the Moon, and was traveling at 1,679 mph (2,702 km/h).
There had been quite a few hiccups. This included a loss of communication for less than an hour. Nevertheless, Artemis 1 is performing better than expected, with NASA engineers canceling an orbital maintenance burn because the Orion capsule is remaining precisely on a trajectory. Meanwhile, NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems team and the US Navy are making preparations for the mission’s splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, which is scheduled for December 11.
“Because of the unbelievable can-do spirit, Artemis 1 has had extraordinary success and has completed a series of history-making events,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “It’s incredible just how smoothly this mission has gone, but this is a test. That’s what we do – we test it and we stress it.”