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Orion spacecraft splashes down after high-speed re-entry

The Orion spacecraft capsule re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on Monday evening after completing its 26-day journey around the moon.

Orion’s re-entry broke records, being the hottest and fastest re-entry of any spacecraft in history.

The capsule “skipped” off the Earth’s atmosphere to burn off the excess speed that it had maintained from its initial launch and journey around the moon.

Even after applying this method of deceleration, the Orion capsule still re-entered at a speed of approximately 40,000 km/h, 32 times the speed of sound, and reached temperatures up to 2,800 degrees.


Despite the record speeds and temperatures, the Orion capsule’s re-entry was heralded as a “textbook re-entry”.

Following its harsh re-entry, the capsule deployed 11 parachutes and dropped to a gentle speed of 32 km/h before splashing down in the ocean off the coast of Baja California, Mexico.

Once safely in the ocean, the capsule was picked up by a US Navy ship, the USS Portland, to be transported back to the US.

The USS Portland will deliver the Orion capsule to a naval base in San Diego. Once in San Diego, the capsule will be shipped across country back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it will be drained of all remaining hazardous fluids and subject to a wide range of inspections.


The capsule contained no crew member during this first Artemis mission, which was designed as a live equipment test run for the new technologies and vehicles that will play the central role in NASA’s ongoing Artemis missions.

Overall, the first Artemis mission has been hailed a resounding success, with the team at NASA demonstrating the capabilities of the new behemoth Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft.

When Orion launches next, it will be with astronauts on board for a fly-by of the moon. The current date for the next launch is set for 2024.

During its 26-day journey from the Earth, around the moon and back, Orion was able to capture stunning high-definition images of both the Earth and the moon.

NASA administrator Bill Nelson spoke about the return of the capsule, and the significance of the entire Artemis program.

It’s historic because we are now going back into space, into deep space, with a new generation,” he said.

“One that marks new technology, a whole new breed of astronauts, and a vision of the future. This is the program of going back to the moon to learn, to live, to invent, to create in order to explore beyond.”

Liam McAneny

Liam McAneny

Liam McAneny is a journalist who has written and edited for his University International Relations journal. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (International Relations) and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Wollongong in 2021. He joined Momentum Media in 2022 and currently writes for SpaceConnect and Australian Aviation. Liam has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations as well as astronomy.

Send Liam an email at: [email protected]

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