The US space agency Nasa's "Artemis 1" moon mission is expected to return to Earth on Sunday. At 6.40 p.m. CET, the unmanned "Orion" capsule is scheduled to land in the Pacific and then be brought to the port of San Diego in the US state of California with the help of specialists, divers and boats.
After almost a month in space, this is the last major test for "Artemis 1": According to Nasa, "Orion" should fly into the Earth's atmosphere at around 40,000 kilometers per hour and then be slowed down to around 480 kilometers per hour . The heat shield of "Orion" has to withstand temperatures of around 2800 degrees Celsius. With the help of five parachutes, "Orion" will then be further slowed down to around 32 kilometers per hour and land in the sea.
Planned a lot of visits to the moon
Even before landing, Nasa boss Bill Nelson had described the "Artemis" test mission as an "extraordinary success". With the "Artemis" program, named after the Greek goddess of the moon, US astronauts are to land on the moon again in the coming years, including for the first time a woman and a non-white person.
A first manned flight ("Artemis 2") around the moon is to be followed by another manned flight including a moon landing ("Artemis 3"). NASA had brought the last people to the moon in 1972 with the "Apollo 17" mission. In total, the USA was the only country to date to put twelve astronauts on the moon with the "Apollo" missions between 1969 and 1972.
"Artemis 1" started - after exploding costs and repeated postponements - as a problem child. But after the launch on November 16 with the "Space Launch System" rocket from the Cape Canaveral cosmodrome in the US state of Florida, the flight then went largely smoothly and the planned milestones could be ticked off: flyby the moon, swinging into orbit of the moon, Pivoting out of the orbit of the moon, another flyby of the moon.
The European Space Agency Esa and space agencies from several other countries are also involved in "Artemis". For example, ESA contributed the European Service Module (ESM), which also supplies electricity, water and air and keeps the spacecraft at the right temperature. The propulsion and supply unit should be separated from the crew module on return and burn up in the atmosphere.