NASA's Orion spacecraft to fly by moon next Monday

Photo: NASA

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- NASA's Orion spacecraft is expected to fly by the moon next Monday, Nov. 21, performing a close approach of the lunar surface on its way to a distant retrograde orbit, according to NASA.

Orion's entry into the lunar sphere of influence will make the moon, instead of Earth, the main gravitational force acting on the spacecraft, said NASA.

Flight controllers will conduct an outbound powered flyby burn to harness the force from the moon's gravity, accelerate the spacecraft, and direct it toward a distant retrograde orbit beyond the moon.

During the outbound powered flyby, Orion will make its closest approach, approximately 128 kilometers (80 miles), above to the lunar surface, according to NASA.

Four days later, another burn using the European Service Module will insert Orion into distant retrograde orbit, where it will remain for about a week to test spacecraft systems.

Carrying an uncrewed Orion, NASA's Space Launch System lifted off for its flight test debut early Wednesday from Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Following the launch, Orion is enroute to the moon as the first mission of NASA's Artemis program.