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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Orion spacecraft for the Artemis 1 mission beamed back the first images of planet Earth just moments back. Orion was launched on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket early in the morning today, after a months long effort saw NASA stand down several times to make some last minute changes on what is now officially the world's largest rocket. After it was launched, Orion conducted a variety of maneuvers, which involved raising its orbit and orienting itself to the Moon's trajectory as part of a 25 day mission that will test the spacecraft's myriad of different systems before it returns to Earth traveling at breakneck speeds and temperatures that cannot be tested in Earth.
NASA's Orion Spacecraft Is On Its Way To The Moon After Conducting Trajectory Correction Burns
NASA shared the views as part of its live stream that broadcasted footage from cameras located outside and inside the Orion spacecraft. Those on the outside are located on Orion's solar panels, and the ones on the inside are placed behind the astronaut seats. This spaceship is designed to transport astronauts to the Moon, to complete the first half of their journey when the crewed missions of the Artemis program kick off under the Artemis 3 mission.
Orion is also larger than the capsule that took NASA's Apollo astronauts to the Moon, and newer technology has also ensured that the number of switches that crew have to deal with in the spaceship is now down from the hundreds before to less than one hundred.
The footage from NASA showed a rare view of the Earth from Orion's solar panels. While initial footage came from a camera that was reflecting the Sun's light, the space agency soon switched to another camera that provided clearer, and more remarkable views. Orion has four cameras on the outside, alongside one primary engine and four pairs of secondary engines.
Footage from the solar panel camera showed the Earth as a small ball at the bottom right of the screen. It was taken as the Orion was traveling at a whopping 5,460 miles per hour. At this point, it was also roughly 58,000 miles away from Earth, having covered one fifth of its ~260,000 mile journey to the Moon close to ten hours after its launch.
Views of NASA's dummy astronauts were also visible, courtesy of the camera inside the spaceship. These showed the model wearing NASA's symbolic orange jumpsuit, which was also the characteristic garment of the astronauts that flew on the Space Shuttle missions. The space suits are pressurized which enables the astronauts to move easily while they are wearing them. The suits also regulate temperature and can keep the crew dry courtesy of a liquid cooling garment. Additionally, they are fitted for each astronaut, and can also keep them safe if Orion's cabin loses pressure - allowing them to survive for up to six days. Since the Orion, like SpaceX's Dragon, also uses touchscreens, the gloves are compatible with the newer displays.
The Artemis 1 mission will enable NASA to test the spacecraft's communications, life support, electrical and other systems as it orbits the Moon. The return journey will see the spaceship touch an eye-popping speed of 24,500 miles per hour in speed; a crucial event as it will be the first time that its heat shield is subjected to such extremes.