NASA's Artemis I moon mission came to an end on Sunday when it splashed down successfully, CNN reported, closing the book on the first chapter of mankind's eventual return to the lunar surface.
Artemis I concluded with the mission's unmanned Orion capsule plunging into the waters of the Pacific Ocean at approximately 12:40 p.m. off the coast of Mexico's Baja California. The capsule made quite the entrance back home, entering the atmosphere at approximately Mach 32 — 32 times the speed of sound, The Associated Press reported.
The Orion capsule had traveled more than 239,000 miles between the moon and Earth, and made its closest flyby of the lunar surface at an altitude of just 79 miles. However, while the rest of the mission had been a success, the splashdown was notably the most dangerous and untested part of Artemis I. Luckily, it too proved to be smooth sailing, with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson telling reporters, "This is an extraordinary day."
The entire goal of the Artemis I mission was to ensure that the spacecraft is prepared to fly actual astronauts when the time comes. Despite this mission being unmanned, Nelson had previously stressed the importance of Artemis I in determining whether the Orion capsule would be able to successfully bring humans to the moon.
Artemis I also made sure to leave a mark on history, as the mission's splash down occurred 50 years to the day after Apollo 17, the final Apollo mission, became the last expedition to land astronauts on the moon.