CAPE CANAVERAL — NASA’s Orion capsule and its test dummies hurtled toward Earth on Sunday to end a 25-day test flight around the moon.
Flight controllers targeted a splashdown in the Pacific just off the coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. A Navy recovery ship was positioned within a few miles (kilometers) of the intended site.
Orion rocketed to the moon from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 16 and spent nearly a week in a wide, swooping lunar orbit, before heading home. The $4 billion demo should allow astronauts to strap in for the next lunar flyby in a couple of years.
Orion’s super fast and hot return coincided with the 50th anniversary of humanity’s last lunar landing, by Apollo 17’s Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt on Dec. 11, 1972. This was the first capsule to visit the moon since then.
NASA’s Apollo landed 12 astronauts on the moon. Under this new Artemis program, named after Apollo’s twin sister in Greek mythology, astronauts could be back on the lunar surface as early as 2025.