Orion at at NASA’s Multi-Payload Processing Facility in Florida.

Orion at at NASA’s Multi-Payload Processing Facility in Florida.
Photo: NASA/Skip Williams

The Artemis 1 demonstration mission ended with a Pacific Ocean splash on December 11, however the activity of evaluating the returned capsule, together with its warmth protect and inside payloads, has solely begun.

Orion survived its historic 1.4-million-mile journey to the Moon and again, however it now must survive a completely completely different take a look at: the scrutiny of NASA engineers. The uncrewed capsule splashed down within the Pacific Ocean in mid-December and was transported to Naval Base San Diego following its restoration. A truck delivered the capsule to Kennedy Space Center in Florida on December 30, the place it’s now being de-serviced at NASA’s Multi-Payload Processing Facility.

A NASA photo taken on January 2 exhibits the capsule within the inspection bay, with a number of engineers crawling beneath the spacecraft to take a more in-depth have a look at its warmth protect. This was completed in preparation for eradicating the warmth protect totally and transporting it to a distinct facility for detailed inspections, NASA defined in a statement.

The warmth protect took the brunt because it protected the capsule from 5,000-degree temperatures throughout reentry. Orion made historical past as being the quickest human-rated spacecraft to return from the Moon, hitting the ambiance at speeds reaching 24,600 miles per hour (39,590 kilometers per hour). The efficiency and integrity of the warmth protect is important to the Orion system and the Artemis program as an entire, which seeks to return people to the lunar floor later this decade. The Artemis 1 demonstration mission examined each the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft, as NASA now units its sights on Artemis 2—a repeat of Artemis 1 however with astronauts aboard.

Related: 7 Things We Learned From NASA’s Wildly Successful Artemis 1 Mission

NASA technicians additionally eliminated exterior avionics bins and are within the means of inspecting the capsule’s home windows and the thermally protected again shell panels, which cowl the spacecraft. Five airbags, now deflated, can nonetheless be seen atop the capsule. Those airbags stored Orion floating right-side-up after splashdown.

An vital subsequent step can be to extract air samples from throughout the capsule. Orion will then be fitted right into a service stand that may permit technicians to entry the inside. After opening the hatch for the very first time, technicians will take away inside avionics bins and inside payloads, together with the three manikins—Campos, Helga, and Zohar—who got here alongside for the journey. NASA plans to reuse the avionics bins for the Artemis 2 mission.

The de-servicing and inspecting of Orion will take months to finish, with different subsequent steps together with the elimination of hazardous commodities and working acoustic vibrations checks at at NASA Glenn’s Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio. Orion will ultimately get its report card, permitting NASA to make any essential modifications in preparation for the crewed Artemis 2 mission, which gained’t occur any sooner than late 2024.

More: See the Best Images from the Thrilling Artemis 1 Splashdown

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