a moon pass for the ages
Five days after launching from Florida's Kennedy Space Center, NASA's Orion 1 spacecraft — part of the Artemis 1 mission — completed a historic moon pass.
Orion cruised just 81 miles above the lunar surface early Monday, November 21 and completed an engine burn needed to continue on its historic mission. That distance from the moon is the closest NASA has come to our satellite since the Apollo 12 mission in November 1969.
This burn "sent Orion close enough to the lunar surface to leverage the moon's gravitational force, and swing the spacecraft once around the moon toward entry into a distant retrograde orbit," NASA's Sandra Jones said during a livestream briefing on Monday.
A striking image tweeted by NASA reveals the Orion spacecraft approaching the gray moonscape, with a blue jewel of Earth peeking from behind the moon. NASA's mission control Sandra Jones narrated the moment during the flight's broadcast:
"Standing on the shoulders of the giants of the Apollo generation," she said, "Orion now carries forward the torch of the Artemis generation, as it emerges from behind the Moon and Earth rise of our pale blue dot and its 8 billion human inhabitants now coming into view."
After the flyby, NASA officials reported that they are "giddy" over the Orion's performance at a late Monday press briefing.
Once it leaves the moon's orbit, Orion will make its way back to Earth where it will splash down in the Pacific Ocean on December 11, per NASA.