After completing its 1.4 million-mile journey to the moon and back early last month, NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft has returned to Kennedy Space Center.
The homecoming event took place on December 30th as Artemis 1 began landing in the Pacific Ocean on December 11th. After USS Portland retrieved the uncrewed crew craft and brought it to Naval Base San Diego on December 13, the capsule embarked on an overland trip to Florida the next day.
Artemis 1’s record-breaking flight began on November 16 with an unforgettable night launch atop the NASA Space Launch System’s Next Generation Heavy Lift rocket.
After Orion returns to Kennedy Space Center, NASA will remove the spacecraft’s heat shield so it can perform a “thorough analysis” of the component and determine exactly how far it has progressed during atmospheric re-entry.
The agency will also remove Moonikin Campos, a test dummy that NASA sent aboard Orion to collect data on how travel to the moon affects humans.
“Artemis I was a huge step forward as part of NASA’s efforts to explore the Moon and pave the way for the next mission of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion to fly a crew around the Moon on Artemis II,” NASA said.
While Artemis II won’t launch until 2024 at the earliest, there’s still a lot to look forward to between now and next year. NASA promised to announce the mission’s crew of four sometime in “early 2023.” Artemis II will pave the way for the first human moon landing since the end of the Apollo program in 1972, and eventually a permanent NASA presence on the lunar surface.