NASA has successfully brought back its next-generation astronaut ship after a more than 25-day journey around the Moon. The Orion space capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Monday (IST) after a fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. However, parachutes slowed the descent later. The uncrewed capsule floated down to the sea with the help of three large red and orange parachutes.

Since this was a test, there were no people aboard this time, but that will change for the next flight.

Nasa is planning a complex mission with Orion. And it will likely start in late 2024– an attempt to put humans back on the lunar surface.

That will be followed by a two-person lunar landing as early as 2025.

Nasa achieved this feat exactly 50 years ago to the day with the crew of Apollo 17. The US space agency’s new project is called Artemis, who in Greek mythology was the sister of Apollo.

Putting people on the next flight will “ratchet up the excitement,” said Nujoud Merancy, chief of NASA’s exploration mission office in Houston.

“No one’s been to the moon in my lifetime, right?” she said. “So this is the exploration that so many of us have been dreaming about”.

Getting Orion back intact after the 25-day flight was NASA’s top objective.

With a return speed of 25,000 mph (40,000 kph) — considerably faster than coming in from low-Earth orbit — the capsule used a new, advanced heat shield never tested before in spaceflight.

To reduce the gravity or G loads, it dipped into the atmosphere and briefly skipped out, also helping to pinpoint the splashdown area.

The splashdown occurred more than 300 miles (482 kilometers) south of the original target zone.

Orion logged 1.4 million miles (2.25 million kilometers) as it zoomed to the moon and then entered a wide, swooping orbit for nearly a week before heading home.

It came within 80 miles (130 kilometers) of the moon twice. At its farthest, the capsule was more than 268,000 miles (430,000 kilometers) from Earth.

Orion beamed back stunning photos of not only the gray, pitted moon but also the home planet. As a parting shot, the capsule revealed a crescent Earth — Earthrise — that left the mission team speechless.

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