NASA’s Orion spacecraft captured breathtaking shots of the moon and the Earth as it returns home.
It’s on course for its return on Sunday and made its second and final close approach to the moon at 10:43 a.m. CT on Monday before its return-powered flyby burn.
The burn was the final major engine maneuver of the flight test. The spacecraft passed more than 80 miles above the lunar surface.
“The lunar flyby enabled the spacecraft to harness the moon’s gravity and slingshot it back toward Earth for splashdown,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a Monday statement. “When Orion re-enters Earth’s atmosphere in just a few days, it will come back hotter and faster than ever before – the ultimate test before we put astronauts on board. Next up, re-entry!”
The mission team polled “go” to deploy recovery assets off the coast of California ahead of Orion’s splashdown. As Orion splashes down, divers, engineers and technicians will secure the capsule, using a winch line cable to pull Orion into a specially-designed cradle.
As of 5:29 p.m. CT on Monday, Orion was traveling 244,629 miles from Earth and 16,581 miles from the moon, at a speed of 668 miles per hour.