Mission to the moon: Orion capsule makes lunar approach

The Artemis mission is a step closer to landing on the moon, as NASA’s Orion capsule passed within 80 miles of the lunar surface.

It is the closest that the capsule will get to the moon’s surface during this mission, our sister station WFTV reported.

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This is the first time in 50 years that a NASA spacecraft has visited the moon. Orion passed over the landing sites of Apollo 11, 12 and 14, The Associated Press reported.

The Artemis I test flight began last Wednesday with the blastoff of the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA.

The flyby happened on the fifth day of the 25.5-day mission, NASA said.

The Orion spacecraft used the moon as a slingshot to pick up the speed needed to get into a lopsided lunar orbit. Another engine firing will help get the spacecraft into orbit on Friday for a weeklong trip before a return trip to Earth that ends with a splashdown on Dec. 11.

Orion is expected to break NASA’s record for the longest distance that a spacecraft designed to be manned has traveled from Earth — with an expected distance of almost 270,000 miles from our planet — breaking the record set by Apollo 13′s 250,000 miles, the AP reported.

You can track Orion during its mission on NASA’s Artemis Real-time Orbit Website, or AROW.