NASA Releases Images and Sounds from Its Moon Ship Traveling at 24,500 Miles Per Hour

NASA Releases Images and Sounds from Its Moon Ship Traveling at 24,500 Miles Per Hour

NASA has released fresh video showing what it’s like to sit inside the Orion spacecraft as it makes its way back to Earth, one year after the mission’s Artemis 1 took out and landed on the Moon. Orion will be used by NASA’s Artemis program to move personnel from Earth to a near-moon orbit and back again after the mission is over. On the return trip, it can reach temperatures of up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit while traveling at an incredible 25,000 miles per hour. The spacecraft’s cameras have recorded this visual and aural encounter.

As the Orion spacecraft accelerates through Earth’s atmosphere, loud thumps reverberate inside.

The NASA crew for Artemis 2 has begun preparing for their historic trip, with less than a year to go until the project’s scheduled liftoff. NASA must meet more milestones for each mission in the Artemis program, which is designed in staggered phases. For example, Artemis 2 saw the crew fly around the Moon in a separate orbit before splashing down on Earth, but Artemis 1 saw an unmanned Orion fly around the Moon before returning to Earth.

Following the first Artemis 1 voyage, NASA evaluated the Orion spacecraft’s ability to carry personnel, much like it did with SpaceX’s personnel Dragon. Astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and Jeremy Hansen practiced a post-splashdown emergency escape during December as the crew prepared for its mission around the Moon.

Similar to pilots, astronauts train in spaceflight simulators. The ability of SpaceX’s simulators to faithfully replicate the sensation and noise of a Crew Dragon during its ascent and descent into orbit is well known. NASA has also been documenting Orion’s return to Earth, and the space agency recently released a brief video clip of the recording on X.

The Orion is built to resist the tremendous forces and speed that a spaceship must experience on its way back from the Moon. These are usually higher and more than what SpaceX’s Crew and Cargo Dragons face on their flights to the International Space Station (ISS). The Orion also uses a novel maneuver called a “skip” to ride the atmosphere and slow down.

During this skip maneuver, Orion descends into the Earth’s atmosphere before rising once more. As a result, the spacecraft can land more precisely, the heat shield performs better, and the astronauts’ g-force load during the Earth-entry process is lessened.

NASA’s extended video capture, which spans Orion’s 25-minute return voyage, shows the spaceship gradually aligning itself in preparation for a safe landing. The video shows the capsule becoming engulfed in plasma as it gets closer to Earth, and you can hear air passing by it. Throughout the return flight, these noises are accompanied by thumps, and unlike a regular plane ride, the Orion also makes several rapid orientation changes while descending.

The video footage also features loud booms preceding the deployment of the drogue parachutes, which are echoed at the opening of the main parachutes. The vehicle becomes comparatively ‘calmer’ as the parachutes open, swaying through the air before crashing into the ocean as the frequency of the thumps increases.

NASA has combined the crew and service parts of the spacecraft that will carry out the Artemis 2 mission as part of its preparations for this trip. It is also preparing for the launch of the Artemis program’s first robotic lunar landing. In January, the lander, named Astrobtic’s Peregrine, is scheduled to launch atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket.

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