NASA's Orion capsule lands in the Pacific Ocean

Splashdown! NASA’s Orion capsule lands in the Pacific Ocean as it arrives back on earth after completing 1.4 million mile voyage to the moon and back that lasted 25 days

  • Orion space capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean near Baja California
  • Navy divers waited nearby to recover the spaceship after its 25-day voyage 
  • The mission began with successful lift-off from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida
  • Craft will take humans around the moon for its next mission, planned for 2024

NASA’s Orion space capsule has splashed down in the Pacific Ocean after completing a 1.4 million mile voyage to the Moon and back that lasted 25 days.

Navy divers waited nearby to recover the spaceship, which splashed down at around 5.40 GMT with a parachute-assisted landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.

The capsule blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on November 16 on Nasa’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket as part of the Artemis-1 mission, ushering in a new era of lunar exploration that could see humans return to the moon.

Nine days later, it made history by travelling 270,000 miles beyond the Earth – the furthest any spacecraft designed to carry humans has gone. 

NASA’s unmanned Orion spaceship approaches Earth as it returns from its Moon mission

If successful, the craft will take humans around the moon for its next mission, planned for 2024.

The splashdown was the final hurdle Orion faces in what has so far been a successful demonstration mission.

There may be no humans on this mission, but returning from the long-haul journey are woolly spacefarers Snoopy and Shaun the Sheep, alongside three mannequin astronauts – dubbed Commander Moonikin Campos, Helga and Zohar.

David Parker, director of human and robotic exploration at the European Space Agency (ESA), described Shaun’s mission as ‘a small step for a human, but a giant leap for lambkind’.

Orion and its toy passengers will brave a bumpy ride back as the spacecraft hurtles towards Earth at about 25,000mph, with outside temperatures approaching 3,000C.

As it enters the Earth’s atmosphere, Orion’s speed will slow down to around 325mph, before it deploys its 11 parachutes to slow down further to a splashdown speed of 20mph or less.

Recovery teams on a ship waiting off the California coast will then pull the capsule – and its passengers – on board.

While the Artemis-1 mission has been all about testing systems, the Artemis II flight test will be Nasa’s first mission with astronauts who will fly around the moon.

If successful, Artemis II will pave the way to land the first woman and next man on the moon as part of Artemis III.

The last manned mission to the moon was Apollo 17 in December 1972.

The Artemis missions are part of Nasa’s long-term plans to build a space station – called Lunar Gateway – where astronauts will be able to live and work.

The building of the Lunar Gateway will include contributions from scientists and engineers in the UK, including from Thales Alenia Space UK and Imperial College London, with backing from the UK Space Agency.

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