NASA mission with Alabama roots ends successfully

Artemis I splashed down on Sunday

Artemis I splashed down off the coast of California Sunday. Photo courtesy of NASA.

NASA’s Artemis I mission, powered by a Huntsville Marshall Space Flight Center-designed and managed Space Launch System rocket, successfully ended Sunday with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

The unmanned Orion spacecraft was recovered after the 25-day flight beyond the moon and back. Orion traveled more than 1.4 million miles during the mission, according to NASA.

The Artemis I mission took off Nov. 16 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It’s the precursor to Artemis II, a crewed flight to the Moon planned in the next couple of years.

“With Orion safely returned to Earth we can begin to see our next mission on the horizon which will fly crew to the Moon for the first time as a part of the next era of exploration,” said Jim Free, NASA associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. “This begins our path to a regular cadence of missions and a sustained human presence at the Moon for scientific discovery and to prepare for human missions to Mars.”

Orion stayed in space longer than any spacecraft designed for astronauts has done without docking to a space station.

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“Orion has returned from the Moon and is safely back on planet Earth,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager. “With splashdown we have successfully operated Orion in the deep space environment, where it exceeded our expectations, and demonstrated that Orion can withstand the extreme conditions of returning through Earth’s atmosphere from lunar velocities.”

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