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Extraordinary footage shows Orion’s ride to Earth exactly a year ago

NASA has shared some extraordinary footage to mark a full year since the return of its Orion spacecraft following a test flight to the moon in the Artemis I mission.

The video was captured from inside the Orion as it reentered Earth’s atmosphere at more than 25,000 mph.

The shared clip lasts 1 minute, though the full version is available to view on NASA’s website.

One year ago today, NASA’s Orion spacecraft reentered the atmosphere after completing a 1.4 million-mile, 25.5 day #Artemis I mission around the Moon. View the full length video here: https://t.co/0Rn7eRETua pic.twitter.com/gX95N8Kz5J

— Orion Spacecraft (@NASA_Orion) December 11, 2023

A spacecraft’s reentry is one of the most precarious parts of any mission as extreme forces are exerted on the vehicle, with a heat shield protecting the spacecraft from the high temperatures that build up during the rapid descent.

Lockheed Martin, which designed the Orion, also shared a stunning photo of the capsule reentering Earth’s atmosphere at high speed during its homecoming last year.

One year ago: @NASA_Orion begins re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, traveling over 20,000mph. pic.twitter.com/F5wdARpSUQ

— Lockheed Martin Space (@LMSpace) December 11, 2023

While the Orion in this video traveled to the moon and back without a crew on board, NASA will replicate the Artemis I lunar mission next year with four astronauts inside. So, the video gives us an idea of what the crewmembers will experience as they return to Earth in dramatic fashion at the end of their 10-day Artemis II mission.

The footage includes an array of weird noises that appear to be made by Orion’s reaction control system, which uses thrusters to control the spacecraft’s orientation.

Following a trip home from the International Space Station in 2020 in the first crewed test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, NASA astronaut Bob Behnken described how the capsule “really came alive” and sounded “like an animal” as it began the reentry process.

“As we descended through the atmosphere, the thrusters were firing almost continuously,” Behnken said in an interview shortly after his return. “It doesn’t sound like a machine, it sounds like an animal coming through the atmosphere with all the puffs that are happening from the thrusters and the atmosphere.”

Behnken added: “You can hear that rumble outside the vehicle, and as the vehicle tries to control, you feel a little bit of that shimmy in your body.”

NASA’s Artemis II lunar crew, which is set to fly in November next year, has all that to look forward to.

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Trevor Mogg
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