Orion Spacecraft
The Orion spacecraft on the 22nd day of the mission with the crescent moon in the distance. NASA photo

With the splashdown of NASA’s Orion capsule less then two days away, the space agency has chosen a landing site near Guadalupe Island off the coast of Baja California.

The original target for the landing was 300 nautical miles north, directly off San Diego, but NASA is worried about an approaching storm system.

The spacecraft, now less than 200,000 miles from Earth, is scheduled to splash down at 9:40 a.m. Pacific time on Sunday to complete the Artemis I lunar test mission.

Melissa Jones, landing and recovery director at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, said the San Diego-based amphibious transport dock USS Portland is heading to the new landing site and will arrive 24 hours prior.

NASA is testing a unique re-entry technique in which the spacecraft will enter the upper edge of the atmosphere, then skip out again, before continuing down in order to reduce the G-forces experienced by future astronauts.

The spacecraft, which blasted off Nov. 16 on NASA’s Space Launch System — the most powerful rocket ever flown — is designed to carry four astronauts on missions of up to 21 days to the moon and beyond.

The Artemis I mission is a test of the entire system prior to sending astronauts around the moon in early 2024. It will be followed by a moon landing in the middle of the decade.

“Artemis I will be the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to build a long-term human presence at the Moon for decades to come,” according to NASA.


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Ellen Bullock