NASA Orion Spacecraft Moon Flyby Burn Photo
NASA’s Orion spacecraft is finally headed home and set to return to Earth on December 11th after completing a powered Moon flyby just 128 kilometers from its surface. The spacecraft used lunar gravity as a slingshot for its 237,000 mile journey back to Earth, and this spectacular Earthrise photo was captured after it reemerged from behind the Moon.

During its journey, Orion also passed by the Apollo 12 / 14 landing sites from 6,000-miles up, which meant that the lunar landers as well as other artifacts left by those missions were not able to be photographed clearly. It’s scheduled for a Pacific splashdown on Sunday just off the coast of San Diego, marking the first step for a manned Artemis mission in the next few years.

Orion is heading home! Today the team achieved another momentous accomplishment, flying Orion just 128 km(s) from the surface of the Moon. The lunar flyby enabled the spacecraft to harness the Moon’s gravity and slingshot it back toward Earth for splashdown. When Orion re-enters Earth’s atmosphere in just a few days, it will come back hotter and faster than ever before — the ultimate test before we put astronauts on board. Next up, re-entry,” said Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator.