Nearly 10 hours after launching atop the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA’s Orion spacecraft snapped a selfie with Earth’s partially illuminated disk visible in the background.
“This view of Earth captured from a human-rated spacecraft not seen since 1972 during the final Apollo mission some 50 years ago,” said Sandra Jones of NASA during a live broadcast Wednesday, Nov. 16. “The views of our blue marble in the blackness of space now capturing the imagination of a new generation — the Artemis generation.”
Just as with the Apollo missions, an important aspect of the Artemis missions will be obtaining breathtaking video and imagery for use in both scientific and public outreach efforts.
To do this, the Artemis 1 mission features 24 cameras, eight mounted to the SLS and 16 on Orion. These cameras are largely meant to help engineers document mission-critical events, such as liftoff, solar array deployment, and landing, for further analysis. Some of these cameras are strategically placed to also look beyond the spacecraft itself.
“Each of Orion’s four solar array wings has a commercial off-the-shelf camera mounted at the tip that has been highly modified for use in space, providing a view of the spacecraft exterior,” said David Melendrez, imagery integration lead for the Orion Program, in a statement. These four cameras are not only perfect for inspecting Orion, but also for capturing views of the Moon or Earth photobombing images of the spacecraft itself.
Three wireless cameras are also mounted inside Orion, aligned to capture the perspectives of future Artemis astronauts. One camera is pointed out the front pilot window of the craft, another peers over the commander’s shoulder, and the third provides a view of parachute deployment (and the launch abort system) through the top hatch window.
Artemis 1 is just getting started. And over the next few weeks, as Orion ventures to lunar orbit and back, the images and video it captures along the way will give us just a glimpse at what the crewed Artemis 2 mission slated for 2024 might be like. In the meantime, here are a few of the best images of the Artemis 1 mission so far.