Spectacular images of the Moon from an extremely close distance of 130 km were taken by the Orion spacecraft as part of NASA's Artemis I mission. The closest it has come to the Moon was on Monday, November 21, 2022, but the photos only appear now.
Detailed black-and-white images were captured by Orion's onboard navigation camera on the sixth day of the mission, at which time the manoeuvre-critical boosters were launched.
Orion is now preparing to perform a critical manoeuvre that will propel the capsule into a high near-lunar orbit. The ship will make one engine launch, and if all goes according to plan, will remain in orbit for a week before heading back to Earth. The ship is expected to land in the Pacific Ocean on December 11, 2022, off the coast of California.
Orion takes photos of Earth and the Moon from different angles at different distances to test its optical navigation system in different light conditions - a system that will help navigate ships on future manned missions.
The Artemis I mission planned to test the readiness of Orion and the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket for future missions with crews on board. If all goes as planned, astronauts will orbit the Moon as early as 2024 during Artemis II, and the next mission will be a landmark mission - because it will involve returning humans to Earth's only satellite for the first time in more than 50 years - near the South Pole.