After six days in a distant lunar retrograde orbit where it set a record for the farthest distance from Earth (270,000 miles or 434,523 kilometers) for a spacecraft designed to carry humans, today the Artemis I Orion spacecraft successfully executed the second and final Lunar flyby of its 25-day mission.

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Orion spacecraft, Moon and crescent Earth. (NASA TV)

The flyby brought Orion to within 80 miles (129 km) of the lunar surface at the closest point. The gravity assist from the flyby and a three-minute burn of the Orion orbital maneuvering rockets set the intrepid little spacefarer on a return trajectory to Earth. The flight will culminate in a high-speed entry into the atmosphere and a landing in the Pacific Ocean on December 11.

The flyby offered distant views of notable lunar sites, including the “mares” (lava beds) that astronauts explored during the Apollo era.

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On December 5, 2022, Orion passes 6,000 miles (9,700km) above the area where the Apollo 12 and 14 missions landed in 1969 and 1971 respectively. (NASA TV)

Let’s hope for smooth sailing over the next six days as Orion endeavors to complete a 1.3 million mile journey on its initial test flight.