NASA’s brand-new Orion spacecraft, designed to take astronauts farther into space than ever before, is currently on its journey toward the moon. Orion completed its thunderous liftoff from Earth at 1:47 a.m. EST yesterday morning, launched via NASA’s powerful Artemis rocket. As it took to the sky, NASA launch commentator Derrol Nail cheered, “We rise together back to the moon and beyond!” Now, the spacecraft is giving us its first images of Earth as it continues its cosmic travels.
Orion’s solar array wing camera took the images at over 57,000 miles away from the Earth. They show the Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) engine, which performed an outbound trajectory correction maneuver, which ensures that Orion is on the right path, earlier today. OMS is the main engine: a re-purposed engine that has flown 19 times in other space shuttle flights from 1984 to 2002, according to NASA.
We are also getting a peek view inside Orion’s cabin, including one of the of the un-crewed mission’s “purposeful passengers” or “moonikins,” the mannequin-like objects standing in for astronauts on this mission. The pictured moonkin is named Campos in honor of Arturo Campos, who played a key role in bringing Apollo 13 safely back to Earth in 1970. Campos is wearing the same bright orange survival suit as the ones Artemis crews will wear on future journeys.
Twenty-four cameras are sprinkled around the rocket and spacecraft–eight on the Space Launch System and 16 on Orion. These cameras, in addition to capturing images of Earth and the moon, will document essential mission events including liftoff, ascent, and the solar array deployment.
“Each of Orion’s four solar array wings has a commercial off-the-shelf camera mounted at the tip that has been highly modified for use in space, providing a view of the spacecraft exterior,” says David Melendrez, imagery integration lead for the Orion Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, in a statement.
Inside the spacecraft, there are three wireless cameras that will capture the perspectives that the astronauts will have on future Artemis missions. One camera is looking out the front pilot window, with a second camera looking over the shoulder of the commander seat. This is where the instrument panel will be located.
Orion is part of the Artemis I mission and is planned to travel about 40,000 miles beyond the moon. It is expected to fly by the moon on November 21 and is scheduled to return to Earth on December 11. Through the planned Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface, study the long-term presence of humans on the moon, and be a pave the way for astronauts to explore Mars one day.
“The Space Launch System rocket delivered the power and performance to send Orion on its way to the Moon,” says Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager, in a statement following Wednesday’s launch. “With the accomplishment of the first major milestone of the mission, Orion will now embark on the next phase to test its systems and prepare for future missions with astronauts.”
Orion can be tracked throughout its mission here.