MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) — The U.S. Space and Rocket Center and the Trash Pandas partnered to host a watch party for the Artemis I Splashdown at Toyota Field.
After a 25-day journey to the moon, North Alabamians watched the unmanned Orion capsule return to Earth. It’s a journey many of those same people contributed to.
“It’s closure, but satisfaction,” said Boeing Test Engineer Tatjana Fisher. “Everything we did to set it up has worked, and also, everything else being successful, it’s a win for the whole space industry.”
The spacecraft reentered Earth’s atmosphere and splashed down off of the coast of California at 11:40 a.m. local time. After spending two hours floating in the Pacific Ocean, the Orion capsule was collected by members of the U.S. Navy and the crew of the USS Portland.
“This is just incredible,” said NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador John Brakett. “I grew up with the space shuttle era, and I always wanted to be a part of the space program. Now, to see something happening in my time, is incredible.”
The Orion capsule launched on November 16 atop a Marshall Space Flight Center-managed SLS rocket. The spacecraft traveled a total of 1.3 million miles to the moon and back. While most of the work done by Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center contributed more to take off than splashdown, attendees were excited to watch the conclusion of the Artemis I Mission.
“We’re just really excited to see Orion splashdown,” said Jayme Allgood, who worked to develop the SLS ascent load. “It’s been a big part of our family for the last 11 years or so, working on it.”
Allgood attended the launch with her family.
According to Marshall Space Flight Center SLS Program Manager John Honeycutt, NASA administrators have graded the rocket’s performance, as an A-plus, but he said the job is far from over.
“We’ve got Artemis II in the works,” Honeycutt said. “We’ll be shipping the core stage to the Kennedy Space Center early next year, and we’ve got many more rockets in flow across the country.”
The primary objective of the mission has been to ensure a crew could safely reenter Earth’s atmosphere in the module, descent, splash down, and be recovered. Artemis I is the first of a series of missions to bring mankind back to the moon and open the door to future Mars exploration.
Artemis II is on the horizon. The second Space Launch System is expected to launch in May of 2024.