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Alabama built Orion space capsule closes in on the moon


A NASA space capsule built and managed by Alabama’s Marshall Space Flight Center is set for a major milestone today. The unmanned Orion capsule is scheduled to arrive at the Moon. The maneuver is part of its mission to test the vehicle that was launched aboard the new Artemis one rocket. The new booster and the Orion capsule were built, tested, and managed by the Marshall Space Center in Huntsville. Lead flight director Mike Sarafin says the Orion is experiencing conditions of deep space…

“We’re flying outbound past the Earth’s magnetic field into the deep space environment where it gets extremely cold,” said Sarafin. “The spacecraft loves to fly tail to sun for thermal and power production, and we’ve demonstrated all of that.”

The Artemis program is managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. The Marshall Center will also manage the effort to build a lunar lander to carry astronauts to the moon for the first time since Apollo seventeen in 1972.

Sarafin says orbiting the Moon is only the first part of Orion’s test mission…

“And then we’ve got to set up for the second part of our priority one objective on the way home, which is the direct re-entry of our new spacecraft with a new heat shield design. And then recover it.”

NASA says the Artemis missions to the moon are meant to pave the way to landing astronauts on the surface of Mars. The Artemis trips to and from the lunar surface only take days, where a Mars voyage will likely take months. The astronauts will have to live and work on their own the red planet.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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