The Orion Moon Capsule Is Back. What Happens Next?
After circling the moon for the past three weeks, NASA’s Orion capsule splashed down under parachute yesterday morning off the ...
...coast of Mexico’s Baja California near Guadalupe Island, marking an end to the Artemis program’s first major lunar mission.
Orion was then scooped up by a recovery crew and sent to port in San Diego, carried in the well of the Navy ship USS Portland.
With Artemis 1 in the books, NASA will scrutinize the capsule’s performance, making sure it is safe for future crewed trips to the moon, including a much-anticipated lunar landing in 2026.
“It’s a historic achievement because we are now going back into deep space with a new generation,” said NASA chief Bill Nelson following Orion’s splashdown.
“This is a defining day. It is one that marks new technology, a whole new breed of astronaut, a vision for the future.”
“First we’ll be looking at: Did the heat shield do its job in rejecting heat and taking care of the heat pulse such that the internal cabin pressure stays at a moderate mid-70 degrees ...
...for astronauts when they’re in there?” says Sarah D’Souza, the deputy systems manager at the NASA Ames Research Center who helped develop Orion’s thermal protection system.
They want to be sure, she says, that “we’ve got a design that will keep humans safe.”
“This time we go back to the moon to learn to live, to work, to invent, to create, in order to go on out into the cosmos to further explore,” he said.
“The plan is to get ready to go with humans to Mars in the late 2030s, and then even further beyond.” That kind of reentry also helps to slow down the spacecraft.
Once the chutes drifted down, all five balloon-like bags inflated, keeping Orion upright in the water.
NASA and Navy officials on the recovery team—in helicopters and boats—then made their approach, preparing to retrieve the spacecraft and stow it in the belly of the USS Portland for the trek back to shore.