The NASA Orion spacecraft returned to Earth after a nearly month long voyage that took it to orbit the moon, concluding a test flight that the agency deemed a success and helping to reinvigorate its ambitions for deep-space exploration.
After facing intense heat when it hurtled through the atmosphere, the Orion crew capsule — a gumdrop-shaped space vehicle that astronauts will travel in during future missions — landed in the Pacific Ocean under parachutes at 12:40 pm Eastern Time on Sunday, the agency said. The splashdown was west of Mexico’s Baja California.
The spacecraft sped out to lunar orbit following its launch on November 16, 2022, traveling deep in space and back to the Earth to give NASA a chance to stress its systems in flight.
Bill Nelson, NASA’s administrator, during a briefing on Sunday described Artemis 1 as extraordinarily successful, crediting the work done by agency teams and its international and corporate partners.
Nelson, a former US senator, was a supporter of legislation a dozen years ago that directed the US space agency to develop powerful rockets and Orion.
Under the larger Artemis project, NASA aims to return astronauts to the surface of the moon and pursue other space exploration goals. The agency has tapped Lockheed Martin Corp., which developed the Orion space capsule, SpaceX, Northrop Grumman Corp., and other firms to develop components and vehicles for the effort.