Catching up with Artemis 1

After a few delays, the first mission in the new Artemis program is going pretty much to plan
A 'selfie' taken by Orion as it began its journey toward the Moon. (NASA)


Back in August, we were getting excited about the launch of Artemis 1—the first mission in the first program to send humans to the Moon in 50 years.

Then the news came down. There was an issue with the rocket and the launch was going to be delayed. And then it was delayed again. And because these rockets can't just be launched at any time, they would need to wait weeks, even months before they could try again.

But even though it took until November 16 for the launch to finally happen, it was worth the wait.

Because over a week into the mission, things are going great for Artemis 1 and its orbital craft, Orion.

And just what exactly is happening out there? Let's see.

What is the craft?

A guide to the SLS and Orion spacecrafts that are at the centre of Artemis 1. (NASA)

Artemis is the mission debut of a couple crafts for NASA. First is the Space Launch System, or SLS. This is biggest, most powerful rocket ever made. It is an extremely powerful rocket. But it is not what is currently orbiting the Moon.

That craft is Orion, which is a small capsule that is similar to the ones used in all of the Apollo missions. Only way more high tech, of course. You can see the layout of the many pieces of the two crafts in the graphic above. Each part will play a critical role in getting humans into space and, eventually, on to the Moon.

Uncrewed ... for now

The long, winding, and wonderful path of the Artemis 1 mission. (NASA)

That said, this particular Orion craft doesn't have any passengers. But on all future Artemis missions, it will be the vehicle humans will use to orbit and then land on the Moon.

Right now, Orion is orbiting in what is called a distant retrograde orbit (DRO) around the Moon.

It is entering DRO today and will aim to stay there for about a week. This test is important because if the craft has any issues staying in orbit, NASA wants to know about them now. Not when a human crew is on board!

What sights to see!

As Orion orbits the Moon, it will collect a bunch of data to assist in future Artemis missions. (The next scheduled mission is Artemis 2, which will take humans on a fly-by around the Moon some time in 2024.)

But fortunately for us, it has already collected a bunch of great images of the Moon that we can share with you now.

Three images of the Moon's surface as taken by Orion on its closest approach earlier this week. (NASA)

Can you imagine being that close to the Moon? In a couple years, four lucky astronauts will be. How thrilling!

And the astronauts will also get to see this: an earthrise. This is when the Earth rises above the horizon of the Moon. Wow, right? Here is a view of one as seen by the Orion spacecraft earlier this week. Enjoy!


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