NASA’s Orion spacecraft has traveled nearly 270,000 miles from Earth on its distant orbit around the Moon, and it will soon be returning to Earth. But before it splashes down on Earth, it must make a return flight at the moon, scheduled for Monday, December 5th.
Coverage of Orion’s return flight will be streamed live by NASA if you want to follow along at home. For details on how to watch the return flight, see our guide below.
What to expect from the flyby
Orion has been orbiting the moon in an orbit called the distant retrograde orbit for about a week. It passes about 40,000 miles behind the moon and makes half an orbit before flying back to Earth. Orion made a close flyby of the moon last month on its outward journey, and now it will pass close by the moon again on its return journey.
Orion must start its engines to put it in a position where it can use the moon’s gravity and accelerate back to Earth. We can also expect some impressive images from the flyby, such as images of the moon and the approaching Earth.
How to watch the flyby
The Moon’s Return is streamed live by NASA and you can either watch the NASA TV channel on the NASA website or use the video embedded at the top of this page.
Coverage of the flyby begins Monday, December 5 at 9:00 am ET (6:00 am PT). ET (8:43 a.m. PT). This is also about the time that Orion will make its closest approach to the moon on its return journey, coming within 79 miles of the lunar surface.
After the return flight, Orion will travel further away from the moon and towards Earth. It is scheduled to make its way back to Earth on Sunday, December 11 when it splashes down off the coast of San Diego. There will also be live coverage of the splashdown on NASA TV.