Orion, NASA's spacecraft, reached the moon on Monday, after flying 130 km above the lunar surface. It approached the Moon from its "dark side", which cannot be seen from Earth, with three dummies that contain sensors that measure vibrations, cosmic radiation, and other conditions.
Because of the half-hour communication blackout, flight controllers in Houston did not know whether Orion's movement had gone well until the capsule appeared on the visible side of the moon, 375,000 kilometers from Earth.
A picture of Earth, a "tiny pale blue dot" in the darkness, was sent after the signal was reestablished and the spacecraft exited the other side of the moon. It left employees at Johnson Space Center in Houston breathless to see the moon and our pale blue planet more than 370,000 kilometers away.
According to Judd Frieling, director of flight control, the flight controllers themselves were "absolutely blown away" by the video. Orion had to fly around the Moon to gain enough speed to enter the Moon's wide, oval orbit.
This Friday, the capsule will be placed in that orbit if everything goes according to plan. On Monday, the capsule reached the moon for the first time since NASA's Apollo program 50 years ago. During last Wednesday's $4.1 billion test flight, the main objective is to fly to the moon.
A spacecraft designed for astronauts will break NASA's distance record for a spacecraft next weekend, which is about 400,000 kilometers from Earth, set by Apollo 13 in 1970.
Its greatest distance from Earth.
Next Monday, it will reach nearly 433,000 kilometers from Earth, Before landing in the Pacific Ocean on December 11, the capsule will spend almost a week in lunar orbit.
The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the most powerful NASA has ever built, performed extremely well in its debut test flight, mission manager Mike Sarafin told reporters. He also said that the expert teams are now dealing with two problems that require workarounds - one is navigation tracking, and the other is the issue of the energy system.
If the test flight with the mannequins is successful, the astronauts will fly around the moon and back as early as 2024, and if that mission also goes well, the landing of two people on the moon is expected in 2025.