The capsule entered the atmosphere at Mach 32 and withstood temperatures of 2,760 degrees Celsius upon entry.
The Orion landed near the island of Guadalupe. A Navy ship quickly arrived at the scene to pick up the spacecraft.
NASA needed a successful splashdown to avoid rescheduling Orion’s next flight around the moon, which is currently scheduled for 2024.
Four astronauts will go on the trip. After that, two people will land on the moon as early as 2025.
Although no one participated in the $4 billion test flight, NASA managers were thrilled to have a dress rehearsal, especially after so many years of launch delays and budget problems. Fuel leaks and hurricanes led to additional delays in late summer and fall.
The return of the Orion safe and sound after a 25-day flight was the main goal of NASA.
With a reentry speed of 40,000 km/h significantly faster than a descent from low Earth orbit the capsule used a new, improved heat shield never before experienced in spaceflight.
The splashdown occurred more than 482 kilometers south of the original target area. Unfavorable weather forecasts off the coast of Southern California prompted NASA to change its landing site.
Orion flew 2.25 million kilometers. He twice approached the Moon at a distance of 130 kilometers. The capsule is more than 430,000 kilometers away from Earth.
Orion transmitted stunning photographs not only of the gray, pitted Moon, but also of our home planet. As a parting shot, the capsule showed the crescent of the Earth, which left the mission team speechless.
The moon has never been so popular. On Sunday, a spacecraft launched to the moon from Cape Canaveral.
The lander is owned by the Tokyo-based ispace company. Two more US companies are planning to launch landers to the moon early next year.
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