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Here’s what NASA’s Orion spacecraft is doing over Thanksgiving weekend • CableFree TV

Since taking off aboard the Space Launch System rocket last Wednesday, NASA’s Orion spacecraft had a remarkably smooth journey. But this is far from the end. As millions of Americans gear up for a long weekend with family and friends, Orion will continue its 25-day mission, including a critical launch on Friday to enter a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon.

Orion is on the eighth day of his 25-day journey around the moon. The capsule is the cornerstone of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the Moon by the end of the decade and, in the long term, make our presence there permanent. The Orion mission was named Artemis I, a reflection of both the start of the Artemis program and that the capsule was finally operational.

The journey was not without setbacks, although they were relatively minor. Perhaps the most significant thing happened early this morning when NASA unexpectedly lost contact with the spacecraft for 47 minutes. Engineers are still trying to figure out why this happened, but the data was recovered with no repercussions for Orion.

So, what’s in store for Orion before the end of this week? Well, quite a lot.

Right now, the spacecraft is on its way to a deep retrograde orbit (DRO). The orbit is so named because of its height above the Moon’s surface and because the orbit moves in the opposite direction of the Moon’s orbit around the Earth. DRO is considered to be very stable, and because of this, the spacecraft requires little propellant to maintain its position in orbit.

On Friday, Orion will conduct a DRO launch using the European Service Module, power and propulsion components of a spacecraft built by the European Space Agency. The next day, Orion will set a new human spacecraft distance record of 248,655 miles from Earth. The spacecraft will reach its maximum distance from Earth on Monday at 268,552 miles.

Orion will stay in the DRO for about a week, during which tests of the spacecraft systems will continue.

Mike Sarafin, Artemis mission leader, back in April called the mission a “real stress test” for a spacecraft in deep space.

“With no crew aboard the first mission, DRO allows Orion to spend more time in deep space for a major mission to ensure that spacecraft systems such as guidance, navigation, communications, power, thermal control and others are ready to keep astronauts safe on future manned missions.” . ,” he said.

After this point, Orion would need to make two more critical launches: the first to leave the DRO, and the second to make a throw back around the Moon and return the spacecraft on a trajectory back to Earth. The grand finale will come when Orion returns to Earth. The capsule is expected to experience temperatures of up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit upon re-entry, and NASA needs to make sure the spacecraft is ready for this before using it for astronaut missions later this decade.

By Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at cablefreetv.org