Orion spacecraft leaves lunar orbit and heads for home
NASA's Artemis 1 Moon mission has left lunar orbit and is returning to Earth. On Dec. 1 at 4:53 pm EST, the uncrewed Orion spacecraft fired its main engine for one minute and 45 seconds, placing it on a trajectory that will set it to pass close to the lunar surface in a slingshot maneuver to propel it home.
The latest course correction came on the 16th day of the Artemis 1 mission, which is designed to test the Orion spacecraft's system under deep-space conditions before astronauts are placed on board for the next Moon flight in the series. The main engine burn altered the craft's speed by about 310 mph (498 km/h).
According to NASA, a second burn of the Orion's auxiliary thrusters is scheduled for about 10:53 pm EST to fine tune its trajectory. Meanwhile, NASA engineers have been carrying out thermal tests of the onboard star trackers that are used to calculate Orion's position and orientation. This is important because the trackers have to be able to withstand the temperature extremes of deep space.
As of 5:30 pm EST, Artemis 1 is 237,600 miles (382,400 km) from Earth and 52,900 miles (85,100 km) from the Moon. On December 5, the Orion spacecraft will make a powered flyby of the Moon at 11:43 am EST, when it will come within 79.2 miles (128 km) of the lunar surface. This will set the spacecraft on its way to a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11.
The video below is the live feed from the Orion spacecraft.