First manned lunar mission in half a century completes successfully

(ORDO NEWS) — Fifty years ago, on December 11, 1972, humanity set foot on the lunar surface for the last time – it was the Apollo 17 mission.

By coincidence, it was on this date, but already half a century later, that the newest American spacecraft returned from its first full-fledged flight to travel to the moon.

According to the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA ) in its official blog, the splashdown occurred normally, on Sunday, December 11, at 9:40 Pacific time ( PST , 20:40 Moscow time). Rescue teams encountered the Orion capsule in the Pacific Ocean east of Baja California.

In the next few hours, the ship will be prepared to be lifted onto the ship, then delivered to the shore, where it will be reloaded onto a trailer and transported to the Kennedy Space Center.

Only there it will be possible to open the hatch of the capsule and check the status of several physical as well as biological experiments.

Then the long process of analyzing the data and the equipment itself on board Orion will begin – the technicians will have to make sure that all the systems of the manned spacecraft have worked as they should.

First manned lunar mission in half a century completes successfully 1
The moment Orion splashed down, captured from a rescue ship in the Pacific Ocean

It is worth noting that the Orion ship, which returned from the Artemis I mission , although this was its first trip to the Moon, managed to set several records at once.

For example, he spent the most time in solo flight without docking with other vehicles or stations of all manned spacecraft ever operated (albeit without people this time).

It also flew the longest distance under similar conditions – more than 2.24 million kilometers in 25.5 days of the Artemis I mission .

Another curious detail of the flight is the orbit around the Moon, which Orion entered . During manned flights, when the circumlunar station is ready, the spacecraft will dock with it.

And both devices, as well as Starsip Lunar or another lander, will be in a “near-rectilinear halo orbit” ( near-rectilinear halo orbit , NRHO ).

But in a test flight for Orion, they chose a different trajectory – a far retrograde orbit ( DRO ).

Previously, only one man-made object occupied it near the Moon – the Chinese Chang’e-5 probe after it sent a capsule with regolith samples to Earth.

First manned lunar mission in half a century completes successfully 3
Infographic with the main stages of the return of the Orion spacecraft to Earth

Both of these orbits have been studied for a long time, but their practical application has only begun in recent years.

This is due to the great complexity of their calculation and the need to perform maneuvers with the highest accuracy.

Previously, it was simply not possible to reduce the positioning error of the device in space to the required level. In relation to the exploration of the Moon, they are important for the following reasons:

  • DRO is incredibly stable and allows long-term devices to be placed in circumlunar space (the Moon has a very inhomogeneous gravitational field and this problem is difficult to solve in other ways)
  • NRHO is not as stable, but it does allow for constant, simultaneous radio contact with the Earth and the Moon’s poles

Half a century ago, earthlings visited the satellite of their home planet for the last time and promised to return.

The Apollo 17 mission was also notable for the first visit to the Moon by a professional scientist, geologist Harrison Schmitt.

All previous crews consisted of astronaut pilots, who, although they had undergone intensive training, did not have full-fledged field work experience.

The Artemis mission will involve an even wider range of people, including the first woman on the Moon and the first non-white man.

This is not only an important socio-political gesture, but also a clear demonstration that missions to other bodies of the solar system are available to qualified specialists, regardless of their physiology or race.


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