NASA’s Orion spacecraft will return to earth in an hour after a 25-day trip around the moon.
The unmanned capsule, designed to carry astronauts, is due to land in the Pacific Ocean near Guadalupe Island at 5.39pm UK time.
The splashdown is the final hurdle in what has been a successful demo mission for Orion. The craft could take humans to the moon for its next mission – scheduled for 2024.
The spacecraft is hurtling towards Earth at 25,000 mph. Upon entering the atmosphere, it will slow to around 325 mph, before deploying 11 parachutes to slow to less than 20 mph.
The capsule lifted off from Earth on November 16 on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket as part of the Artemis-1 mission, ushering in a new era of lunar exploration that could see humans return to the moon.
Nine days later, he made history by traveling 270,000 miles beyond Earth – the farthest of all spacecraft designed to transport humans.
It has now covered over 1.4 million miles.
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There may not be humans on this mission, but returning from the long-distance voyage, woolly astronauts Snoopy and Shaun the sheep, alongside three model astronauts – dubbed Commander Moonikin Campos, Helga and Zohar .
Recovery teams will remove the capsule from the ocean.
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While the Artemis-1 mission was all about testing systems, the Artemis II flight test will be NASA’s first mission with astronauts to fly around the moon.
If successful, Artemis II will pave the way for the first woman and next man to land on the moon as part of Artemis III.
The last manned mission to the Moon was Apollo 17 in December 1972.
The Artemis missions are part of NASA’s long-term plans to build a space station – called the Lunar Gateway – where astronauts will be able to live and work.