NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Executes Picture-Perfect Uncrewed Splashdown

NASA said its Orion spacecraft successfully completed a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean at 9:40 PST, 12:40 EST on Sunday, Dec. 11, as the final major milestone of the Artemis I mission. Engineers performed several additional tests while Orion was in the water and before powering down the spacecraft and handing it over to the recovery team aboard the USS Portland.

Navy divers and other team members approached the spacecraft in inflatable boats, then attached a winch line and additional tending lines to the spacecraft. The winch pulled Orion into a specially designed cradle inside the USS Portland’s well deck. Once Orion was positioned above the cradle assembly, technicians drained the well deck and secured the capsule on the cradle. The spacecraft will be taken to U.S. Naval Base in San Diego and then to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for inspection in Florida. Technicians will thoroughly inspect Orion, retrieving recorded data, removing onboard payloads, and more, the space agency said.

Artemis I was the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems – the Orion spacecraft, SLS rocket, and the supporting ground systems – and the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to the Moon.

NASA has noted in future missions it will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, and will collaborate with commercial and international partners to explore the surface of the Moon with both human and robotic explorers. The lunar South Pole is a priority landing area as NASA investigates deposits of water and other resources that can be used for long-term exploration. Through Artemis missions, NASA will also prepare for future human missions to Mars. Story courtesy of NASA JPL

See a gallery of splashdown images at the National Robotics Education Foundation (NREF) website, here. Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology. 

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