NASA’s Artemis I moon mission ends as Orion capsule splashes down in Pacific Ocean

NASA’s historic Artemis I mission around the moon ended Sunday as the Orion spacecraft capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.

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The mission, which covered 1.4 million miles and stretched for more than 25 days with no crew in its test flight around the moon, splashed down off the Baja California coast of Mexico at about 12:40 p.m. EST.

NASA officials called it a “picture-perfect” landing.

“Orion back on Earth,” NASA said.

The spacecraft successfully separated from its service module at 12 p.m. EST, NASA officials said.

The capsule hit the atmosphere at 32 times the speed of sound and endured reentry temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit before splashing down near Guadalupe Island. The Associated Press reported. A Navy ship quickly moved in to recover the spacecraft.

The space capsule splashed down after traveling more than 239,000 miles from the moon back to Earth. It entered the atmosphere, 400,000 miles above Earth, hurtling at a speed of approximately 25,000 mph.

The splashdown occurred on the 50th anniversary of the last time astronauts touched down on the moon, according to That was when Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt landed on the lunar surface. The pair left the moon on Dec. 14, 1972.

Orion launched atop a Space Launch System rocket on Nov. 16, according to It moved into lunar orbit nine days later and left on Dec. 1. On Monday, Orion fired its main engine in its longest burn of the mission -- 3.5 minutes -- during a lunar flyby to head back to Earth.

NASA’s Apollo program landed 12 astronauts on the moon. Under the Artemis program, named after Apollo’s twin sister in Greek mythology, astronauts could return to the lunar surface as early as 2025, according to The Associated Press.

On Saturday afternoon, NASA officials said that Orion conducted a propulsion maneuver to ensure the aircraft was on the correct landing course, The Wall Street Journal reported.

While there were no astronauts on the Artemis test mission, there were several mannequins equipped to collect data and a Snoopy doll, CNN reported.

Artemis is NASA’s program to return astronauts to the surface of the moon and achieve other goals in space, according to The Wall Street Journal. NASA has selected Lockheed Martin Corp., which developed the Orion spacecraft, SpaceX, Northrop Grumman Corp. and other companies to develop vehicles and other components for the effort, according to the newspaper.

With the successful splashdown, NASA can begin gearing up for the next phase of the program. Artemis 2 is expected to send astronauts around the moon in 2024, according to Artemis 3 is scheduled to land astronauts near the lunar south pole in 2025 or 2026.