Mission Control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center has confirmed that the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission has achieved lunar orbit.
After an orbital maneuvering engine burn lasting 88 seconds, the spacecraft entered a distant retrograde orbit that is so large it will carry the Orion spacecraft beyond the Lagrange 2 point where the gravitational forces of the Earth and Moon cancel one another out.
The craft will travel at an altitude of around 40,000 miles above the Moon.
This means that Artemis 1 will take a week to only travel half an orbit, then it will then make another course correction that will send it, via a slingshot maneuver using the Moon’s gravity, back to Earth for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on December 11.
On November 26, the mission will have traveled farther from Earth than any other human-rated spacecraft, though the present “Crew” on the test flight consists of three sensor-laden mannequins.
The purpose of Artemis 1 is to test the Orion spacecraft’s essential systems, including a new heat shield that protects it from temperatures not experienced by a crewed capsule since the Apollo lunar missions, new avionics, and support systems that need to withstand the temperature extremes of deep space and passage through the Van Allen radiation belts on missions that could last up to weeks at a time.