(CNN) – NASA has released a selfie taken by the Orion capsule and close-up photos of the damaged landscape of the lunar crater as the spacecraft continues on the Artemis 1 mission, a 25-and-a-half-day journey that will take more than 40,000 more miles. There on the far side of the moon.
The most recent portrait of Orion, taken on Wednesday, the eighth day of the mission, by a camera on one of the capsule’s solar panels, reveals the corners of the spacecraft with part of the moon visible in the background. The close-ups were taken Monday as Orion came into its closest point to the Moon, passing about 80 miles (129 kilometers) above the lunar surface.
If Orion completes its journey beyond the Moon and returns to Earth, it will be the furthest a human-carrying spacecraft has ever traveled. For now, the capsule only carries non-living science payloads.
Orion is part of NASA’s Artemis program, which ultimately aims to create a lunar outpost that can permanently house astronauts for the first time in history, with the hopes of one day paving a way to Mars.
The Artemis I mission launched on November 16, when a NASA Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket launched an Orion capsule into space, cementing the rocket as the most powerful operational launch vehicle ever built.
As of Thursday afternoon, the capsule was 222,993 miles (358,972 kilometers) from Earth and 55,819 miles (89,831 kilometers) from the Moon, and traveling at just over 2,600 miles per hour, according to NASA. .
Orion is now one day away from entering a “far retrograde orbit” around our nearest neighbour: far, because it will be very high above the lunar surface, and far back, because it will orbit the moon in the opposite direction. From where a natural satellite travels around the Earth.
The trajectory is intended to “stress test” the Orion capsule, Michael Sarafin, NASA’s Artemis mission manager, said last week.
According to NASA’s Artemis blog, the agency’s television coverage of the distant retrograde orbit inclusion burn is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday and the burn is scheduled for 4:52 p.m. ET.
After stroking the Moon, the Orion capsule is expected to return to Earth and make a soft landing in the Pacific Ocean on December 11th.
CNN’s Jackie Wattles contributed to this report.
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