Astro Bob: Artemis reaches moon; space station delights at dusk
When it comes to flying around in space, there's a lot happening this week.
NASA's Artemis I Orion spacecraft successfully completed an engine burn just 80 miles above the lunar surface on the far side of the moon at 6:44 a.m. CST, Monday Nov. 21. The maneuver now puts on Orion on course to enter lunar orbit in four days. Because radio signals can't penetrate the moon, the spacecraft performed the burn all by itself … with flawless results. NASA reacquired the spacecraft's signal 34 minutes later. Check out this short video featuring more Earth views.
The next critical point, a second engine burn planned for Nov. 25, will insert the spacecraft into a distant retrograde orbit. There it will stably orbit the moon on a path taking it as far as 40,000 miles (64,000 km) above the lunar surface. This will give NASA the opportunity to test its performance in a deep-space environment. On Dec. 1 the capsule will perform another engine burn to leave orbit and begin its return to Earth.
Closer to home, the International Space Station is back at dusk, making one or two passes every evening through mid-December. The space station is always fun to watch. Bright and easy to spot, it rises in the west, sails across the southern or northern sky, and sets in the east unless it encounters Earth's shadow along the way. Similar to the moon entering eclipse, the ISS quickly fades and then disappears from view as it enters the shadow.
The astronauts are awaiting a SpaceX Dragon resupply ship, due to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center at 2:54 p.m. CST on Tuesday, Nov. 22, and dock with the station early the following morning. If you'd like to listen to students ask the astronauts about what it's like to live and work on the ISS, tune in to NASA TV starting at 10:30 a.m. Central Time on Wednesday, Nov. 23.
To find out when and where to see the space station, go to Heavens Above and select your city by clicking on the blue Change your observing location and other settings link. Then return to the home page and click on the blue ISS link to see a 10-day table of passes that includes time, direction, brightness and altitude. Ten degrees (10°) of altitude is equal to one fist held at arm's length against the sky.
The higher the negative number in the brightness column, the brighter the pass. Click on any pass time and a map will appear showing the station's path across the sky. All times shown are local times on the 24-hour clock for your location, so 18:30 = 6:30 p.m. local time and 2:15 = 2:15 a.m.