The Orion capsule of the American space agency NASA reached the Moon and began to cover it.
The capsule, which has three dummies with sensors for measuring vibrations, cosmic radiation and other conditions instead of a crew, approached the Moon from its “dark side”, which cannot be left by Earth.
Because of the half-hour communications blackout, flight controllers in Houston did not know whether the capsule’s crucial engine start had gone well until the capsule appeared on the visible side of the moon, 375,000 kilometers from Earth.
Today, the capsule reached the Moon for the first time since NASA’s Apollo program 50 years ago. Reaching the moon is a milestone in the $4.1 billion test flight, which began last Wednesday.
When the capsule appeared behind the Moon, the cameras embedded in it sent back an image of Earth as a blue dot in the darkness.
The Orion capsule had to go around the Moon to gain enough speed to enter a wide oval orbit around it.
If all goes according to plan, on Friday the engines will fire up once more and the capsule will be placed into that orbit.
If the test flight goes well, astronauts will fly around the moon and return as early as 2024. If that goes well, landing two people on the moon could follow in 2025.