Test flights are test flights for a reason. NASA was aiming for a trouble-free Artemis I mission that’s sending its uncrewed Orion capsule around the moon and back, but the spacecraft encountered a communications glitch overnight.
Orion talks with Earth through the Deep Space Network, an array of antennas across the globe that are used to send data back and forth to space missions. “NASA’s Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston unexpectedly lost data to and from the spacecraft at 12:09 a.m. CST for 47 minutes while reconfiguring the communication link between Orion and Deep Space Network overnight,” the space agency said in a statement Wednesday morning.
The 47 minutes of lost communication probably felt like an eternity. It would have been even more nervewracking if there were astronauts on board. “This is why we test,” NASA associate administrator Jim Free tweeted along with a photo of Orion with the moon in the distance.
on top of NASA’s massive Space Launch System rocket last week. Artemis I is all about testing the equipment and systems that will be used for the planned Artemis II mission to send humans around the moon.
NASA was able to regain communications with Orion after making an adjustment back on Earth. “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 agency said.
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NASA emphasized that the spacecraft is healthy. Orion’s journey up to this point has been fairly smooth. It blasted off in style,and buzzed by the moon. It’s scheduled to return for an Earth splashdown on Dec. 11.
Space is full of challenges, especially when new hardware and software go for a maiden flight. It’s better to work out these kinks with no astronauts in the mix.