NASA's Artemis I mission: Orion spacecraft completes lunar flyby on journey home

NASA's Orion Spacecraft – part of its historic Artemis I mission – flew behind the moon one last time on Monday morning, as the spacecraft makes its way back to Earth.

At its closest, the spacecraft was approximately 80 miles above the lunar surface, traveling around 4,800 mph. After Orion completed its final flyby, the spacecraft cameras captured Earth rising on the horizon and as it swung around the moon. 

At 11:43 a.m. EST, the spacecraft completed a successful return-powered flyby (RPF) burn when the orbital maneuver engine fired for 3 minutes and 27 seconds, putting Orion on the correct trajectory to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11 after 25.5 days in space. 

Artemis I launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida during the early morning hours on Nov. 16, 2022. The mission is expected to last 25 days, 10 hours, and 53 minutes before returning to earth on Dec. 11, 2022. You can watch a replay of the launch below.

Artemis is the first test in a series of test missions to eventually land human astronauts back on the moon. The launch itself was delayed a few times – twice due to technical issues and a hydrogen leak, as well as Hurricane Ian and then Hurricane Nicole.