A seemingly smooth Artemis I mission hit a brief snag Wednesday as NASA reported losing contact with its prized Orion spacecraft just hours after it sent back stunning imagery of the far side of the moon.
NASA’s Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston said it lost communication with the spacecraft while reconfiguring giant radio antennas.
The anomaly occurred after Orion exited the moon’s gravitational sphere of influence, all while producing stunning imagery of the lunar body and Earth along its journey.
“The reconfiguration has been conducted successfully several times in the last few days, and the team is investigating the cause of the loss of signal. The team resolved the issue with a reconfiguration on the ground side. Engineers are examining data from the event to help determine what happened,” NASA stated.
The spacecraft is expected to reach its furthest distance from the moon on Friday before conducting what NASA said will be a major burn to enter the orbit of the moon.
Orion’s scheduled orbit is expected to last six days before beginning its return trip back to Earth.
NASA said its engineers are still investigating and trying to determine why communications were temporarily lost with the spacecraft, but it remains in a healthy state,
Lead Artemis I flight director Rick LaBrode believes the most crucial maneuvers for Orion are still to come.
NASA’s Mission Control Center will fire the engines as part of the return power flyby (RPF) burn to get the spacecraft on a trajectory to return to Earth.
“That is our most critical burn of the mission. If something happens that one and we don’t execute it, then it’s a loss of the Orion capsule,” LaBrode previously stated. “We have to do that one, but we plan accordingly.”
The space agency said Orion is on track to splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast around December 11.