How to watch the end of the Artemis 1 mission

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NASA’s Orion spacecraft will return to Earth this weekend after its 25-day mission around the moon. The unmanned spacecraft is expected to crash into the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, Dec. 11.

Since launching on Nov. 16, Orion has traveled through Earth’s atmosphere and into space, making a short flyby the moon and heading for a distant orbit, spanning more than 70,000 miles from the moon at its farthest point. . Orion circled the Moon and made a second close flyby on the return journey and is now heading back to Earth.

The biggest challenge now facing the spacecraft is to safely enter Earth’s atmosphere and land in the ocean.

“Currently, we are on track to have a fully successful mission with some bonus goals we achieved along the way,” Artemis mission manager Mike Sarafin said at a press conference on Thursday. He went on to say that the main objectives for landing day are to test Orion’s reentry and to practice retrieving the spacecraft from the ocean.

To land accurately at the landing site, Orion performs something called a skip entry. This will be the first time a spacecraft designed to carry humans has attempted such a maneuver. It works by diving the spacecraft into Earth’s upper atmosphere and pulling it back up before re-entering the atmosphere. It will then be slowed down by parachutes before splashing down. This allows the spacecraft to land in a precise zone in the Pacific Ocean.

“By skipping the entry, Orion can land closer to the coast of the United States, where recovery crews will wait to land the spacecraft again,” explained Chris Madsen, Orion’s guidance, navigation, and control subsystem administrator. , in a NASA message about last year’s maneuver. “When we fly crewed Orion, starting with Artemis II, the landing accuracy will really help us get the crew back quickly and reduce the number of resources we need to be stationed in the Pacific to assist with the recovery.”

Orion will arrive at our planet at a tremendous speed of 25,000 mph, and moving through Earth’s atmosphere will slow it down to 325 mph. It will deploy its 11-chute system from an altitude of about 5 miles, which will slow it to less than 20 mph as it splashes down.

The return to Earth will be an important test for Orion’s heat shield, which is supposed to protect the capsule from the heat of reentry, which can reach 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Testing the heat shield in real-world conditions is especially important because there’s no way to simulate this event in facilities here on Earth, Sarafin said, and it will be an essential piece of hardware to keep future astronauts safe when they travel in Orion for the Artemis II mission and beyond.

When will Artemis I return to Earth?

NASA’s coverage begins at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, December 11, with a scheduled landing at 12:39 a.m. ET.

How can I watch Artemis I splash down?

A live stream will be available on YouTube, NASA TV and NASA’s website.

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