The Orion capsule is on its way to Earth, and on Monday it will “tick off” another important moment: it will briefly be only 127.4 km from the surface of the Moon, closer than it was on the sixth day of the mission. Then, on November 21, it was found 130.3 km from the surface of the Moon.
Orion, Terra si LunaPhoto: NASA
Orion re-entered the Moon’s sphere of influence on December 3 and will exit it on December 6, when it will have five days until it returns to Earth.
On December 4, at 6:43 p.m., Orion made another trajectory correction and slightly increased speed.
The last important maneuver of the mission will be on December 5, at 6:43 p.m., a maneuver that will change Orion’s speed by 1,000 km/h. After this maneuver, which will last 3 minutes and 27 seconds, only minor trajectory corrections will follow in the next few days.
On Monday, Orion will come within 128 km of the Moon’s surface, after several days of orbiting at tens of thousands of km. The mission is almost 26 days long and we are on day 20.
NASA says there were minor technical problems with a system called the PCDU, but these problems did not affect Orion’s trajectory or the operation of any essential capsule systems.
December 11 is the day of the return to Earth, and it will be with emotions for those from NASA: the re-entry into the atmosphere will be done at a speed of almost 40,000 km/h, and the heat shield will have to withstand 2,700 C. The high-performance parachutes must open, to slow the capsule’s fall into the ocean as much as possible.