NASA's Artemis 1 Mission Reaches Max Distance As Orion Snaps Amazing Image Of Earth

NASA's Artemis I mission continues to be a success with the unmanned Orion spacecraft reaching the zenith of its path yesterday afternoon, Nov. 28. According to a NASA press release, at just after 3 p.m. CST, Orion clocked in at 268,563 miles from Earth. This is only the halfway mark of Orion's mission, NASA reports. The vessel has since continued its six-day-long Distant Retrograde Orbit journey, a "highly stable orbit where little fuel is required to stay for an extended trip in deep space," per NASA, because the gravitational pull of both Earth and the Moon keep the spacecraft in place with less necessary fuel consumption. The orbit is so stable, in fact, that a prescheduled maintenance burn — that's when the engineers remotely fire the spacecraft's jets to adjust its position in orbit — was deemed unnecessary and canceled. 

According to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, the Artemis I mission has been an "extraordinary success" so far, but the spacecraft has a lot of testing and stressing to go through before it can be considered complete.

Orion captures stunning images of Earth, Moon

Orion captured several beautiful shots of our planet during its extraterrestrial venture, including images of the Moon seemingly eclipsing Earth, and several of Orion looking back at Earth, nothing but a blue-green dot on a canvas of black. Orion also shared video footage from today of the vessel turning to face the planetary bodies as it orbits the Moon in distance retrograde, shared on NASA's Flickr page. In this NASA video, Orion is set ablaze with light from a solar array as it orbits the Moon.

The NASA ground systems team, in conjunction with the U.S. Navy, is now preparing for the safe return of the vessel and an astronaut-suited mannequin named after famed Apollo 13 electrical engineer Arturo Campos — complete with an outfitting of sensors to collect data on what human astronauts aboard Orion might experience. Orion and the Moonnequin Campos are expected to splash back down in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11. After Orion is back on Earth, the second phase of the mission — Artemis II, which will land astronauts on the Moon for the first time in decades — will quickly begin.