NASA’s Orion space capsule is heading back to Earth after a lunar approach that saw it come within 130 kilometres of the Moon’s surface.
The spacecraft fired its thrusters Monday for a big engine “flyby burn” – a 3.5 minute manoeuvre designed to change its velocity and set the capsule on course for its flight home.
NASA said the lunar flyby came a week after Orion reached its farthest point in space, nearly 270,000 miles from Earth while midway through its 25-day mission.
The unmanned capsule Orion, part of NASA’s Artemis programme, swung round the Moon and back as part of a six-week demonstration mission.
The Artemis project aims to put a crew capsule into orbit around the Moon – a major milestone in NASA’s quest to put astronauts back on the lunar surface for the first time since the Apollo programme ended 50 years ago.
It also seeks to establish a long-term lunar colony as a stepping stone to even more ambitious future voyages sending humans to Mars.
Artemis is named after the goddess who was Apollo's twin sister in ancient Greek mythology.
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