On November 16 last year, NASA achieved the first-ever launch of its next-generation lunar rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), in the Artemis I mission.
The rocket carried to space the new Orion capsule, which journeyed all the way to the moon — and then beyond — in a crewless flight to test its systems.
Ten days after launch — and a year ago this week — the crewless Orion spacecraft broke the existing 248,655-mile record for the furthest distance traveled from Earth by a crew-capable spacecraft, set by Apollo 13 in 1970.
Just a few days after that, Orion set a new distance record by a crew-capable spacecraft when it reached a distance of 268,553 miles from Earth, which also put it 43,051 miles from the moon.
The successful voyage ended with the Orion splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on December 11 and paved the way for the Artemis II mission, which is scheduled to take place exactly a year from now.
Unlike Artemis I, Artemis II will carry a crew of four astronauts. The Orion carrying the Artemis II crew will follow the same route as Artemis I, coming to within about 80 miles of the lunar surface while also heading past the moon to a distance similar to that reached by the spacecraft last year.
Following Artemis II, NASA is aiming to land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface in the Artemis III mission, currently set for 2025.
In that mission, Orion will not land on the moon but instead rendezvous with Starship HLS, a SpaceX-built lander that’s based on the design of its Starship spacecraft. The Orion astronauts will transfer to the Starship HLS, which will transport them to the lunar surface for a historic landing.
- Relive Mars rover’s spectacular landing exactly 3 years ago
- Fly your name to the moon as part of historic NASA mission
- Extraordinary footage shows Orion’s ride to Earth exactly a year ago
- NASA’s Lucy phones home after ‘Dinky’ flyby
- NASA’s Artemis II moon capsule receives vital component