NASA has shared footage of the Orion spacecraft's spectacular re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. This iconic moment occurred in December 2022, as part of NASA's Artemis I mission, marking a significant milestone in the agency's quest to explore deep space.
Orion, a crucial component of the Artemis program designed to take humans beyond Earth's orbit, embarked on its journey on November 16, 2022, aboard NASA's Space Launch System (SLS). This mission, lasting 25 days, included six days in lunar orbit, pushing Orion's distance from Earth to an impressive 434,500 kilometers (270,000 miles) – a record-breaking feat for a human-designed spacecraft.
The most remarkable aspect of this re-entry was the speed at which Orion hurtled through Earth's atmosphere, clocking in at a staggering 40,000 kilometers per hour (25,000 miles per hour) – a speed 32 times faster than the sound barrier. This extraordinary velocity reaffirmed Orion's status as the spacecraft designed to reach the farthest into space by humans.
Notably, Orion executed an unprecedented "skip" re-entry, bouncing off Earth's atmosphere like a stone skimming water. This innovative technique ensures a precise landing location, regardless of where the spacecraft initially enters the atmosphere.
NASA's Artemis II mission, slated for launch in November 2024, is set to be a historic moment as the first crewed flight aboard the Orion spacecraft.