NASA recently announced its Orion spacecraft made a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on December 11 after being launched on a round-trip to the Moon on November 16.
The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket launched the Orion spacecraft onto its journey to the Moon on November 16, with the small but very fast spacecraft entering into lunar orbit on November 25 and finally departing lunar orbit on December 1 for its return journey back to Earth when it landed in the Pacific Ocean on December 11. NASA announced that Orion performed better than expected, achieving all of its primary mission goals and even completing bonus objectives given to it throughout its journey back to Earth.
Now, reports are coming out that Orion reached Naval Base San Diego on December 13 while aboard the USS Portland, a US Navy recovery ship that grabbed Orion shortly after it made splashdown. Orion will undergo full analysis from engineers interested in how the hardware on the inside and outside of the capsule held up throughout the long journey through space, around the Moon, and back through Earth's atmosphere. Notably, engineers will be checking the quality of Orion's heat shield, which is designed to protect the spacecraft from burning up while traveling through Earth's atmosphere.
With the success of Artemis 1 with the Orion spacecraft, NASA is moving on to preparation for Artemis 2, which will essentially be the same mission but crewed, which means it will carry US astronauts to the Moon. The mission is scheduled to launch in 2024 and will be the first time humans have returned to the Moon since 1972.
The Artemis 2 mission will likely use a new Orion spacecraft that features several upgrades and improvements based on the results from the Artemis 1 mission.
As Orion traveled to the Moon, it took images and video footage that captured the Moon's impressive size. These visuals will be used for various purposes, such as scientific research, public outreach, and education. If you are interested in checking out those images or videos, visit the below link.