The Orion spacecraft successfully reaches the equator of its mission to the moon

Selfie taken by Orion with a camera mounted on one of its solar panels on the third day of the Artemis I mission. / nasa

Science | Space

It has broken the distance from Earth record set by Apollo 13 and is performing so well that seven new targets have been added to test the vehicle's systems.

Elena Martin Lopez

This Monday, half of the Artemis I mission, which began on November 16 and will end on December 5, has been successfully completed. In a press conference offered from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, spokespersons for the US agency have updated the status of the uncrewed flight test and have celebrated that everything is going better than expected.

Its administrator, Bill Nelson, said: "Our teams have been very busy this holiday weekend (it coincided with the Thanksgiving celebration) due to the extraordinary success of the Artemis I mission, which has already completed a series of historical events. On Friday, for the first time, a human-carrying spacecraft successfully entered distant lunar orbit."

There it will stay for a week to test the systems in a deep space environment, some 64,300 kilometers from the lunar surface, before beginning the return journey to Earth. "Later on Saturday, Orion broke the record for the distance such a spacecraft has been from Earth," Nelson added. The previous one was established by the Apollo 13 mission, when moving 400,000 km away from our planet. Orion has moved away almost 435,000 km.

For his part, Mike Sarafin, manager of the Artemis I mission, has celebrated that the good performance of the mission has allowed the addition of new objectives, which were not foreseen, to test the vehicle's systems. “The midpoint in this mission provides us with the opportunity to add seven new targets to the 124 initially agreed upon. That will allow us to further characterize the thermal environment of the spacecraft and its propulsion system, to see what our margins are and where we need to focus our efforts, in order to reduce risks and implement that wisdom on the next crewed flight," he said. .

“The effort we are making now to get the real-time data on the performance of the vehicle and the environment is very valuable, because it is what will allow us to update the models we have and know exactly how the ship works so as not to make mistakes in the future. », seconded Rick LaBrode, flight director at NASA Johnson Space Center.

Sarafin has also stated that "there have been some small technical problems, but none of the anomalies are major." Likewise, he has announced that the recovery operations team of the United States Navy has begun preparations and training to recover the ship's equipment once it falls into the Pacific Ocean, off San Diego, on December 11.

Artemis I is the first step in exploring the extreme environment of deep space around the Moon before the Artemis II mission, scheduled for 2024, does the same with a crew on board. The Artemis program includes a total of four missions, each one more complex, whose objective is to return humans to the moon and, from there, make the jump to Mars.