NASA’s Orion Spacecraft beats Apollo 13 distance record to become the farthest-traveled Spacecraft Built for Humans

On November 26, at 10:17 a.m. Eastern Time, NASA’s Orion Spacecraft covered a distance of 249,666 miles (401,798 kilometers) from Earth. At this great distance, the spacecraft was able to set a new record, surpassing the previous milestone set by Apollo 13 spacecraft in 1970. But what is unique about this new record? Continue reading to find out.

How NASA’s Orion spacecraft broke a massive record

For decades, Apollo 13’s crewed Odyssey command module has held the record of the most traveled crewed spacecraft after it reached a distance of 248,655 miles (400,171 kilometers) from Earth in 1970. However, after 52 years of waiting, the NASA Orion spacecraft finally broke the massive record and surpassed the threshold at 8:40 am. ET on November 26 before traveling farther away to set its own record. NASA celebrated the milestone with great excitement.

“Houston, we have a new record,” NASA’s Johnson Space Center Twitter account announced shortly afterward, recurring to the famous and powerful phrase used when the Apollo 13 crew encountered a challenge while on their way to the Moon. This new record created by the Orion Spacecraft has proven that we can always do the impossible in the future.

“Artemis I was designed to stress the systems of Orion, and we settled on the distant retrograde orbit as a really good way to do that,” Jim Geffre, Orion spacecraft integration manager, explained in a press briefing. “It just so happened that with that really large orbit, high altitude above the Moon, we were able to pass the Apollo 13 record. But what was more important though, was pushing the boundaries of exploration and sending spacecraft farther than we had ever done before.”

Why NASA remembered Apollo 13 hero during the Artemis I moon mission

During the Apollo 13 mission, NASA never planned to set a new record. However, an explosion that occurred halfway during the mission changed the course of the mission and mandated the astronauts and ground control team to create a new map to safely return the command module to Earth. However, the fastest route the team could come up with made the Apollo 13’s Odyssey command module travel further away from Earth than any crewed spacecraft has reached in the past.

NASA’s ground team of engineers knew that the command module has a limited amount of oxygen supply. Hence, they opted to take advantage of the moon’s gravity to transport the Apollo 13 capsule back to Earth. NASA engineer Arturo Campos contributed immensely to the safe return of the Apollo 13 astronauts including Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise.

But how did the Engineer do this? Campos was one of NASA’s engineers that stood out become of his creativity and problem-solving abilities. As Apollo 13 capsule began to encounter challenges during its return trip to Earth, Campos creatively designed an emergency plan that took advantage of the Moon’s gravity and provided a safe passage for the crew to safely return to Earth. Apollo 13 crew set a new record while following Campos’s emergency plan.

To reward the effort of the Engineer that planned the emergency route for Apollo 13, NASA named a mannequin carried on the Orion Spacecraft after Campos. Since the spacecraft has successfully beat the record created by Apollo 13, NASA is assured that the spacecraft will reach its more significant potential during the crewed mission in 2024.

The mannequin carried in the Orion Spacecraft will help NASA to study conditions aboard the spacecraft and decide how to keep astronauts safe during the crewed Artemis II mission which will commence in 1972. During Artemis II, NASA is looking forward to sending humans around the moon Orion and returning them to Earth. However, Artemis III which is scheduled to take off in 2025 will land humans on the Lunar surface for the first time in the 21st century.

Conclusion

As the Orion spacecraft has reached its maximum distance after entering the moon’s orbit, it will begin to make its return trip to Earth. NASA is expecting the spacecraft to safely splash down over the Pacific Ocean on December 11. What do you think about this milestone created by the Orion spacecraft?

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