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Sunday Space Preview: Orion Returns From Moon as Private Mission Launches to It

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
December 10, 2022
NASA’s uncrewed Orion spacecraft reached a maximum distance of nearly 270,000 miles from Earth during the Artemis I flight test before beginning its journey back toward Earth. Orion captured imagery of the Earth and Moon together from its distant lunar orbit, including this image on Nov. 28, 2022, taken from camera on one of the spacecraft’s solar array wings. (Credits: NASA)

NASA’s uncrewed Orion spacecraft is set to splashdown on Sunday off the coast of California after a nearly 26-day long flight test to the moon on Sunday. The return will occur only hours after a private mission to land a spacecraft and rover on the lunar surface is scheduled for launch from Florida.

Live coverage as Mission Control in Houston monitors the spacecraft’s entry, descent, and splashdown off the coast of San Diego will begin at 11 a.m. EST (16:00 UTC) on the NASA website. Splashdown is expected at 12:40 p.m. (17:40 UTC). The exploration ground systems recovery team from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, working with the U.S. Navy, will recover the spacecraft.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch ispace’s mission to the moon 10 hours before Orion’s splashdown at 2:38 a.m. EST (07:38 UTC) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The mission will carry ispace’s Hakuto-R lander, which will carry the United Arab Emirates’ Rashid rover, a transformable robot for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and other payloads to the lunar surface.

NASA’s Lunar Flashlight CubeSat, which will search for evidence of water ice from lunar orbit, is a secondary payload on the mission.

SpaceX will webcast the launch at

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