NASA Orion capsule shows the dark side of the moon

Orion is scheduled to splash down off the coast of California on Sunday, Dec. 11. (Source: NASA / SCI + TECH /TMX)
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 11:58 AM EST
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(Gray News/TMX) – NASA’s Orion spacecraft is on its way back to Earth after conducting its second close approach to the moon Monday as part of the Artemis 1 mission.

A video shared by the U.S. space agency on Twitter shows the moment ground control regained Orion’s signal after it passed behind the moon.

The dark side of the moon looms large and close, with a crescent Earth visible in the distance.

The uncrewed capsule passed just 80.6 miles above the lunar surface at 11:43 a.m. ET Monday, before its powered flyby burn sent it on a path to Earth.

“The lunar flyby enabled the spacecraft to harness the moon’s gravity and slingshot it back toward Earth for splashdown,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.

Orion is scheduled to splash down off the coast of California on Sunday.

“Last week, we completed our final rehearsal with the USS Portland, which will be our recovery ship for Artemis I,” landing and recovery director Melissa Jones said.

Artemis 2 could see four astronauts orbit the moon in 2024, before a landing mission in 2025 or 2026, according to NASA.

The agency said missions to Mars will follow.