NASA's Artemis I mission sent back some spectacular images of the moon and the Earth while breaking new ground in space travel.
Artemis launched on Nov. 16, 2022, on a nearly monthlong mission to circle the moon and return home safely. There were no astronauts on board, but the trip was intended to pave the way for future crews to land on the lunar surface.
In this photo, guests watch the launch of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, carrying the Orion space capsule, on the Artemis I mission at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
To the moon
The Orion spacecraft used its optical navigation camera to snap this black-and-white photo of the moon on Nov. 21, 2022 — flight day six of the Artemis I mission.
NASA explains: "Orion uses the optical navigation camera to capture imagery of the Earth and the moon at different phases and distances, providing an enhanced body of data to certify its effectiveness under different lighting conditions as a way to help orient the spacecraft on future missions with crew."
Eyeing the target
It took several tries over a number of months before the Artemis mission finally lifted off in November. Earlier launch attempts were scrubbed due to problems that arose in the fueling process, weather and other issues.
In this photo, NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is seen on the launch pad on Aug. 18, 2022, with the full moon glowing above.
Finally ... liftoff!
NASA's Space Launch System rocket blasted off on the Artemis I mission at 1:47 a.m. EST on Nov. 16, 2022, from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The 322-foot-tall SLS is the most powerful rocket NASA ever built. It weighs 5.75 million pounds when fully fueled for launch, yet can climb nearly 500 feet straight up in just seven seconds.
Streaking into space
In this 3-minute exposure, NASA's SLS rocket launches on the Artemis I mission early in the morning of Nov. 16, 2022.
NASA's Artemis I mission is the first integrated flight test of the agency's deep space exploration systems: the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket; the Orion spacecraft, which will carry astronauts on future missions; and ground systems.
Earth, moon and Orion
On Nov. 21, 2022, a camera on Orion's solar array wing captured this view of the spacecraft, the Earth and the moon.
Orion was making its outbound powered flyby of the moon as part of the Artemis I mission, approaching within 80 miles of the lunar surface. Artemis I, the first flight test of NASA's Orion capsule and Space Launch System rocket, launched Nov. 16, 2022, and is scheduled to splashdown Dec. 11.
On Nov. 21, 2022, the sixth day of the Artemis I mission, Orion's optical navigation camera captured black-and-white images of craters on the moon below.
Approaching the moon
A portion of the far side of the moon looms large just beyond the Orion spacecraft in this image taken on the sixth day of the Artemis I mission by a camera on the tip of one of Orion's solar arrays.
The spacecraft entered the lunar sphere of influence on Nov. 20, 2022, making the moon, instead of Earth, the main gravitational force acting on the spacecraft. On Nov. 21, it came within 80 miles of the lunar surface, its closest approach, before moving into a distant orbit.
Long way to go
This photo shows NASA's Orion spacecraft on Nov. 23, 2022, still two days away from reaching its distant retrograde orbit.
The moon is in view as Orion snaps a selfie using a camera mounted on one of its solar array at 10:57 p.m. EST.
Here's another black-and-white close-up of the lunar surface, taken by Orion's optical navigation camera.
Orion uses its optical navigation camera to capture imagery of the Earth and the moon at different phases and distances.
Looking back at the moon
On Nov. 24, 2022, nine days into the mission, NASA's Orion spacecraft captured imagery looking back at the moon from a camera mounted on one of its solar arrays. The spacecraft continued on to a distant retrograde orbit around the moon.
Earth in the distance
A camera on one of the Orion capsule's solar arrays captured views of the moon and planet Earth as the spacecraft sailed nearly 43,000 miles above the moon's far side, on Nov. 28, 2022.
On Nov. 28, 2022, flight day 13, Orion reached its maximum distance from Earth during the Artemis I mission: 268,563 miles away from our home planet.
With that milestone, Orion had traveled farther than any other spacecraft built for humans, although there was no crew on board this flight.
Moon and space
This image sent back by Orion shows the craters on the lunar surface set against the deep black of space.
Heading to the dark side
This image from a camera mounted on one of the Orion spacecraft's solar arrays show the capsule's view a few minutes before passing over the far side of the moon, out of contact with flight controllers.
Craters and more craters
Orion's optical navigation camera took this black-and-white photo of the lunar surface on Nov. 21, 2022, the sixth day of the Artemis I mission,
The moon is pocked with thousands of craters that formed over billions of years when asteroids, meteorites or comets slammed into its rocky surface.
Closest since Apollo
NASA says this photo, from Nov. 21, and others taken by Orion are the closest photos of the moon from a human-rated spacecraft since the Apollo program decades ago.
The space agency aims to launch another flight in late 2024 that would carry four astronauts in an Orion capsule in a loop around the moon. Then, in 2025 or 2026, NASA would send the first woman and the next man to walk on the moon, targeting a landing near the lunar south pole.
This view shows the inside of the Orion capsule on Nov. 27, 2022. That afternoon, Orion was over 264,000 miles from Earth, cruising along at 1,750 mph.
In the center is a display of the Callisto payload. NASA says Callisto, a system developed by Lockheed Martin in collaboration with Amazon and Cisco, is testing voice-activated and video technology in a deep-space environment — perhaps to be used by astronauts on future missions.
Flight Directors Paul Konyha and Nicole McElroy monitor the Orion spacecraft as it reaches its record-breaking distance from the Earth — nearly 270,000 miles away — on flight day 14 of the Artemis I mission, Nov. 28, 2022.
A portion of the moon looms large just beyond the Orion spacecraft in this image taken on Dec, 5, 2022, the 20th day of the Artemis I mission, by a camera on the tip of one of Orion's solar arrays. At its closest point, Orion flew within 80 miles of the lunar surface.
Orion looks homeward
This high-resolution image was captured by a camera on the tip of one of Orion's solar arrays on Nov. 16, 2022. The spacecraft was 57,000 miles from Earth at the time.
Return powered flyby
Orion captured this image of the moon on flight day 20 of the Artemis I mission, Dec. 5, 2022. It was the day of return powered flyby, the final major engine maneuver of the flight test.
NASA said the main engine burn lasted 3 minutes, 27 seconds, and changed the velocity of the spacecraft by about 655 mph (961 feet per second) to propel it back towards Earth.
Final hour in space
A camera on one of the Orion capsule's four solar wings captured spectacular images of Earth on Dec. 11, 2022, as the spacecraft closed in for re-entry and splashdown. This shot came down less than one our before re-entry.
NASA's Orion spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, about 200 miles off the coast of Baja California, at 12:40 p.m. ET on Dec. 11, 2022 to complete the Artemis I mission, a journey of some 1.4 million miles around the moon and back.