NASA Releases Image of Far Side of Moon as Orion Passes By

Nearly one week into the Artemis I mission, NASA's Orion module made its first pass of the Moon—sending its first pictures of the satellite back planet-side. That includes a look at the "dark side" of the Moon and its massive Mare Orientale lunar mare. It will now look the break the record for furthest distance traveled by a spacecraft capable of being piloted by humans, a record previously set by Apollo 14.

"The mission continues to proceed as we had planned, and the ground systems, our operations teams, and the Orion spacecraft continue to exceed expectations, and we continue to learn along the way about this new, deep-space spacecraft," Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager, said in a NASA briefing Monday.

Orion is one of the main pieces to the Artemis I puzzle, a mission that finally launched to space earlier this month after a series of delays. Using data captured by the uncrewed craft, NASA hopes to return with a crewed flight as part of the Artemis II mission. Artemis III will then return astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972.

"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.