NASA's Orion capsule has been traveling amongst the stars for three days, and the space-bound craft has started returning its first pictures. Saturday, the space agency shared a series of snapshots Orion took of itself about halfway between Earth and the Moon.
"Today, we met to review the Orion spacecraft performance, and it is exceeding performance expectations." Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager, said in a blog post Saturday.
According to the posting, Artemis I controllers used the cameras to take the "selfies" in order to assess potential damage to the hull of the uncrewed capsule. "Over the past few days, a team assessed anomalous star tracker data that correlated with thruster firings. Star trackers are sensitive cameras that take pictures of the star field around Orion," the agency explained. "By comparing the pictures to its built-in map of stars, the star tracker can determine which way Orion is oriented. Teams now understand the readings and there are no operational changes."
The SLS carrying Orion successfully launched earlier this week after a months-long delay due to a range of factors. Should all go to plan, Orion will reach the Moon if a couple of days before making its journey back to Earth before a splash down in December.
"What an incredible sight to see NASA's Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft launch together for the first time. This uncrewed flight test will push Orion to the limits in the rigors of deep space, helping us prepare for human exploration on the Moon and, ultimately, Mars," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said of the launch.
"It's taken a lot to get here, but Orion is now on its way to the Moon," added Jim Free, NASA deputy associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. "This successful launch means NASA and our partners are on a path to explore farther in space than ever before for the benefit of humanity."
If Artemis I is ultimately successful, Artemis II will see the same systems be piloted by a crew of four astronauts. Artemis III—currently scheduled for 2024—would then return astronauts to the Moon for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972.