Take a ride on NASA’s latest lunar mission on a tracking website just launched by the agency.
Artemis 1, the first flight of the Artemis program, launched early Wednesday morning (Nov. 16). A Space Launch System rocket successfully sent an unmanned Orion spacecraft to the moon on its first-ever mission.
Even though the launch is over, you can continue to follow the nearly month-long mission in real time on this NASA website (opens in new tab). And if you want, you can download the trajectory data to create your own applications, the agency said.
The base website shows an animation of Orion in space, along with the elapsed time of the mission, the speed of the capsule, and the distance to the Earth and moon. You can change the view of the Orion spacecraft by rotating or moving the camera between four solar-powered wing cameras, or toggle between views of the mission trajectory to date. You can also see the spacecraft up close.
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“The ephemeris data can be used to track Orion with your own space software application or telescope. It can also be used to create a physics model, animation, visualization, tracking application, or any other project imaginable,” said NASA writer Erika Peters. in a blog. after (opens in new tab) on Tumblr.
Available state vectors, or data describing Orion’s location and movements in space, could also be used for tracking apps and data visualizations, NASA said in a separate post. (opens in new tab) about the project.
The data visible online is the same as that generated by a group within NASA’s mission control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The group, called Flight Dynamics Operations (FDO), is responsible for “tracking where the spacecraft is and where it will be,” Peters said.
FDO obtains information by tracking Orion on the Deep Space Network, a trio of massive Earth-based satellite dishes that allow communication with NASA’s missions throughout the solar system. Between the tracking information received and the models FDO generates, the team is trying to provide accuracy on Orion’s path to feed on Artemis flight controllers.
“Accurate trajectory is essential for achieving mission objectives, maintaining communications links, lighting, adjusting trajectory and more,” added Peters.
Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of “Why am I taller (opens in new tab)(ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a space medicine book. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).