Miami, Nov 30 – The Orion capsule of NASA’s unmanned mission Artemis I will leave its “distant retrograde lunar orbit” this Thursday to begin its return trip to Earth, which will culminate with a splashdown in the Ocean Pacific scheduled for December 11.

Orion, which moves in a retrograde lunar orbit, that is, in an orbit opposite to the path of the satellite around the Earth, “will leave its orbit” to “begin tomorrow the process of returning to Earth,” he said on Wednesday. Mike Serafin, Artemis mission manager, in a teleconference at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The top managers of the mission decided this Wednesday in a meeting, after 15 days of Orion flight, that the capsule will leave retrograde lunar orbit on Thursday, as planned, and begin the process of returning to our planet.

The capsule is in its eleventh stage of the 17 scheduled to complete its mission, added Serafin, who stressed the importance of the “collection of data and flight tests and incredible images” taken from Orion.

Orion’s scheduled departure from its “remote retrograde orbit around the Moon” will begin on Thursday, December 1 at 4:53 p.m. local time (21:53 GMT), Serafin said at the press conference, in which Zebulon Scoville, director of NASA flight, and Chris Edelen, Orion integration manager.

The expert thanked the essential contribution of the European Space Agency (ESA, in English) to the Artemis I mission, a collaboration that serves to “continue learning how the system is working.”

“This is an incredible mission, we are seeing incredible opportunities to take people to the Moon and explore the solar system,” said Scoville, who stressed that the Artemis I mission has developed very satisfactorily.

A mission “taken to its limits” that will serve, Scoville said, “to assess the risks of Artemis II, which NASA plans to launch with a crew in 2024.

Last Monday Orion reached the maximum distance achieved by any spacecraft from Earth: 434,522 kilometers (270,000 miles), thus surpassing the record distance of Apollo XIII.

The capsule, which is traveling at 5,102 mph (8,200 km/hour), thus broke the record for the farthest distance traveled from Earth by any spacecraft designed to be crewed by humans, according to NASA.

The general objective of the Artemis program is to establish a base on the Moon as a previous step to reach Mars in the future.

To do this, after Artemis I, NASA will launch Artemis II into lunar orbit in 2024, with a crew, and the takeoff of Artemis III is expected for 2025, a mission in which astronauts, including a woman, would touch the ground of the satelite.

NASA had to delay the departure of the mission four times, twice for technical reasons and another two for meteorological reasons.

Finally, on November 16, the SLS, the most powerful and largest of all NASA rockets, with a height greater than a 30-story building (322 feet or 98 meters), lifted off from Florida propelling the Orion.

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