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NASA Orion in far-flung orbit around moon

NASA’s Orion capsule is circling the moon in an orbit stretching tens of thousands of kilometres in a dress rehearsal for the next lunar flyby with astronauts.

November 26, 2022
By Marcia Dunn
26 November 2022

NASA’s Orion capsule has entered an orbit stretching tens of thousands of kilometres around the moon as it nears the halfway mark of its test flight.

The capsule and its three test dummies entered lunar orbit more than a week after launching on the $US4 billion ($A5.9 billion) demo that’s meant to pave the way for astronauts.

It will remain in this broad but stable orbit for almost a week, completing just half a lap before heading home.

As of Friday’s engine firing, the capsule was 380,000km from Earth.

It’s expected to reach a maximum distance of almost 432,000km in a few days, setting a new distance record for a capsule designed to carry people one day.

“It is a statistic but it’s symbolic for what it represents,” Jim Geffre, an Orion manager, said in a NASA interview earlier in the week.

“It’s about challenging ourselves to go farther, stay longer and push beyond the limits of what we’ve previously explored.”

NASA considers this a dress rehearsal for the next moon flyby in 2024, with astronauts. 

A lunar landing by astronauts could follow as soon as 2025.

Astronauts last visited the moon 50 years ago during Apollo 17.

Earlier in the week, Mission Control in Houston lost contact with the capsule for almost an hour. 

At the time, controllers were adjusting the communication link between Orion and the Deep Space Network. 

Officials said the spacecraft remained healthy.

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