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NASA’s Orion capsule returned to Earth after a test flight from the moon

This photo provided by NASA shows the Orion capsule returning from the moon. The capsule returned at breakneck speed on Sunday, December 11, 2022, splashing by parachute in the Pacific Ocean near Mexico. (NASA via AP)
This photo provided by NASA shows the Orion capsule returning from the moon. The capsule returned at breakneck speed on Sunday, December 11, 2022, splashing by parachute in the Pacific Ocean near Mexico. (NASA via AP)

NASA‘s Orion capsule returned from the moon at breakneck speed on Sunday, splashing in the Pacific Ocean near Mexico by parachute, ending a test flight that should clear the way for astronauts’ next flyby.

The capsule returning to Earth passed through the atmosphere at Mach 32, or 32 times the speed of sound, and withstood re-entry temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius) before splashing west of Baja California near Guadalupe. A Navy ship quickly sailed in to recover the spacecraft and its silent crew – three test dummies equipped with vibration sensors and radiation monitors.

NASA needs a successful landing to continue with the next Orion flight around the moon. The current target for the flight is 2024. Four astronauts will complete the trip. This will be followed by a two-man moon landing as early as 2025.

The last time astronauts landed on the moon was on Sunday 50 years ago. After landing on the moon on December 11, 1972, Apollo 17’s Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt spent three days exploring the lunar surface, the longest stay of the Apollo era. They were the last two of the 12 moonwalkers.

(This article is based on an Associated Press report)

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