NASA gets ready as Orion spacecraft prepares to return to Earth in Artemis I mission

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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – The Orion spacecraft is getting ready to return to Earth and NASA is holding a news conference Wednesday evening to preview what happens next.

NASA’s team will hold the briefing at 5 p.m. EST on Wednesday. News 6 will stream the briefing live when it happens.

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On Thursday afternoon, the Orion spacecraft will leave the distant retrograde orbit around the moon in a departure burn. It’s the first of two maneuvers needed to exit the lunar orbit. The second is a close lunar flyby next Monday, flinging the spacecraft back toward Earth.

Orion entered the distant lunar orbit on Friday, Nov. 25, to test systems in a deep space environment. At one point, Orion reached nearly 270,000 miles away from Earth in that orbit — breaking a record for human-rated spacecraft last set during the Apollo 13 mission in 1970.

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NASA has encountered few issues since Orion launched atop the Space Launch Systems rocket on Nov. 16 from Kennedy Space Center.

If all goes well in the next few days, Orion will head back to Earth at a high rate of speed and splash down in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11.

Orion’s uncrewed flight was part of the Artemis I mission, providing all the data and tests NASA needs to attempt to send astronauts in orbit around the moon in 2024 on Artemis II, and then land two astronauts near the lunar south pole around 2025 on Artemis III.

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