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Artemis 1's Orion spacecraft captures stunning photos of the moon during its closest approach

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The moon looks spectacular in images captured by NASA's Orion spacecraft as it cruised just 81.1 miles (130 kilometers) above the lunar surface during the Artemis 1 mission's closest approach to Earth's natural satellite on Monday (Nov. 21).

These detailed black and white images were snapped by the Orion spacecraft's onboard optical navigation camera on day 6 of the mission, the same day it performed a crucial engine burn. 

Orion is currently gearing up for a critical maneuver that will insert the capsule into a high orbit around the moon on Friday (Nov. 25). The capsule will perform a single-engine burn and all being well, will remain in lunar orbit for about one week before embarking on its journey back to Earth. The spacecraft is scheduled to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast on Dec. 11. 

Related: NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission: Live updates 

Close-up view of the lunar surface captured by the Orion spacecraft's onboard optical navigation camera during the mission's closest approach to the lunar surface on Nov. 21, 2022. (Image credit: NASA)

Close-up view of the lunar surface captured by the Orion spacecraft's onboard optical navigation camera during the mission's closest approach to the lunar surface on Nov. 21, 2022. (Image credit: NASA)

Close-up view of the lunar surface captured by the Orion spacecraft's onboard optical navigation camera during the mission's closest approach to the lunar surface on Nov. 21, 2022. (Image credit: NASA)

Close-up view of the lunar surface captured by the Orion spacecraft's onboard optical navigation camera during the mission's closest approach to the lunar surface on Nov. 21, 2022. (Image credit: NASA)

Close-up view of the lunar surface captured by the Orion spacecraft's onboard optical navigation camera during the mission's closest approach to the lunar surface on Nov. 21, 2022. (Image credit: NASA)

These detailed black and white images were snapped by the Orion spacecraft's onboard optical navigation camera on day 6 of the mission, the same day it performed a crucial engine burn. 

Orion has been busy capturing images of Earth and the moon at different phases and distances to test the effectiveness of its optical navigation camera under different lighting conditions as a way to aid spacecraft orientation during future crewed missions, according to the image descriptions on NASA's Flickr account (opens in new tab). 

Artemis 1 is a trailblazing mission designed to test the readiness of the Orion Spacecraft and NASA's giant Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for future missions of the Artemis program. 

All being well, the pair could fly astronauts to the vicinity of the moon as early as 2024 — the first time since 1972 — during Artemis 2. 

Around a year or two later, Artemis 3 will land astronauts near the moon's south pole.

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Daisy Dobrijevic joined Space.com in February 2022 as a reference writer having previously worked for our sister publication All About Space magazine as a staff writer. Before joining us, Daisy completed an editorial internship with the BBC Sky at Night Magazine and worked at the National Space Centre in Leicester, U.K., where she enjoyed communicating space science to the public. In 2021, Daisy completed a PhD in plant physiology and also holds a Master's in Environmental Science, she is currently based in Nottingham, U.K.

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