It’s crazy to think it’s already been 25 days since NASA’s launched its largest and most powerful rocket to the Moon. After a decade of work, everything came together to bring us to this day, with a completed and validated deep space launch system for NASA after a successful Artemis 1 splashdown.
Artemis 1 splashdown completes Orion’s test flight
On Sunday, December 11, at 12:40 p.m. EST, Orion splashed down in the Pacific Ocean to complete NASA’s Artemis 1 mission. This was one of NASA’s major test cases for the mission to launch crew on the Artemis 2 flight in the coming years.
To test Orion’s heatshield properly, NASA brought the spacecraft at a shallow angle to skip off Earth’s atmosphere. This then brought Orion back in at a steeper angle, producing higher g-loads and heating on the vehicle. Even with this extreme test, Orion performed flawlessly. After the splashdown of Artemis 1, crews from the US Navy, Air Force, and NASA safed the capsule and towed it into the USS Portland for transportation back to San Diego. Then Orion will take a cross-country road trip back to Kennedy Space Center for inspections.
Picture-perfect landing follows a picture-perfect mission
Launched back on November 17 in the very early hours of the morning, since then, we’ve been wowed by the photos sent back from this mission. Overall, the Artemis 1 mission has been a major success for NASA. While the hiccups of launch were to be expected, when the Space Launch System did lift off, it performed flawlessly. It looked like if we didn’t run into those pesky hydrogen leaks, there probably wouldn’t have been any problems at all during the countdown.
What was more impressive was how flawlessly the mission went post-liftoff. While some investigations are looking into a few issues that showed up early on in the mission, the Artemis 1 test flight was a complete success. Sharing with the world beautiful photos from beyond the Moon, traveling further than any other crew-rated capsule has before, and then screaming through Earth’s atmosphere for a perfect Artemis 1 splashdown in the Pacific.
Now that the Artemis 1 mission has been completed, work is now set to begin on Artemis 2 mission planning. This includes assigning a crew, training mission controllers, and assembling the next Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. Currently, Artemis 2 is slated for a May 2024 launch date, but we’ll see when it actually launches when those pieces start to come together.