NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft returns to Kennedy Space Center

The agency can now take apart the capsule.

POOL New / reuters

After completing its 1.4 million mile trip to the Moon and back at the start of last month, NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft has returned to the Kennedy Space Center. The homecoming occurred on December 30th. Artemis 1 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on December 11th. After the USS Portland recovered the unmanned crew vehicle and brought it to Naval Base San Diego on December 13th, the capsule embarked on an overland trek to Florida the next day. Artemis 1’s record-breaking journey began on November 16th with a memorable nighttime launch atop NASA’s next-generation Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket.

Now that Orion is back at Kennedy Space Center, NASA will remove the spacecraft’s heat shield so that it can conduct an “extensive analysis” of the component and determine exactly how it fared during atmospheric reentry. The agency will also remove Moonikin Campos, the test dummy NASA sent aboard Orion to collect data on how travel to the Moon might affect humans. “Artemis I was a major step forward as part of NASA’s lunar exploration efforts and sets the stage for the next mission of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion to fly 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 four-person crew sometime in “early 2023.” Artemis II will set the stage for the first human lunar landing since the end of the Apollo program in 1972, and eventually a permanent NASA presence on the Moon.