NASA’s Orion spacecraft, flying on the Artemis I mission, reached the half-way point between the Earth and the Moon.
The milestone was reached on November 18, 2022, on its second day of the flight and roughly 38 hours after leaving the Earth’s orbit.
The spacecraft launched on November 16, 2022, onboard the SLS rocket.
Despite numerous problems with the system and almost three months of delays, the launch went smoothly. Approximately two hours after launch, Orion separated from the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) – the final stage of the rocket that gave it the last boost of acceleration – and began coasting on its trajectory to the Moon.
Through the journey, NASA has been releasing photos and videos of the ever-receding Earth, captured by the spacecraft’s cameras.
1 day and 18 hours into the mission, Orion’s Twitter account – which regularly posts updates on the spaceship’s whereabouts – indicated that the capsule is now 161,854 miles (27,124 kilometers) from Earth and 151,227 miles (243,376 kilometers) from the moon, indicating that the half-way point was passed.
On its approach to the Moon, on November 21, 2022, the spacecraft will engage its engines and enter the Moon’s orbit. At its closest, the Orion will pass 80 miles (approx. 129 kilometers) above the Moon’s surface, a NASA press release explains.
After several burns, the Orion will enter distant retrograde orbit around the Moon: rotating in the opposite direction the Moon rotates around the Earth and keeping its distance from the surface. There, the spacecraft will remain for a week, before initiating another burn and another pass close to the surface before heading back to Earth.
According to NASA, such a mission is designed to test the extent of Orion’s capabilities, allowing the agency to collect necessary data on the spacecraft’s performance in anticipation of subsequent manned flights.