At 9:40 p.m. local time on Dec. 11, the Orion spacecraft, which completed its orbit of the moon, returned to Earth, according to NASA.
Splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on the western side of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, the lunar exploration mission Artemis I ended safely.
On Nov. 16, the Orion spacecraft lifted off aboard NASA’s next-generation lunar rocket, the SLS, for a 25-day unmanned flight around the moon.
The mission covered a total of more than 2.2 million kilometers, during which Orion entered lunar space twice with a minimum distance of only about 130 kilometers from the lunar surface.
The Artemis program, designed to “return to the Moon,” is divided into three phases, with Artemis I having completed an unmanned return around the Moon to verify the reliability of the equipment and processes.
Next, Artemis II, tentatively scheduled for launch in 2023, will carry four astronauts to complete a manned lunar orbit.
Finally, Artemis III, scheduled for 2024, will send astronauts to the lunar surface, land on the south pole of the Moon, and build a long-term research base at the South Pole in the future.