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Nasa's Orion capsule makes safe return to Earth

The American space agency Nasa has brought home its next-generation astronaut ship after a near-26-day mission to orbit the Moon.

The Orion capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean after a fiery re-entry into Earth's atmosphere and a descent that was further slowed by parachutes.

Because this was a test, there were no people aboard this time, but that will change for the next flight.

Nasa is planning ever more complex missions with Orion.

These will likely start in late 2024 and include, in 2025 or 2026, an attempt to put humans back on the lunar surface.

This was last achieved exactly 50 years ago to the day by the crew of Apollo 17. The agency's new project is called Artemis, who in Greek mythology was the sister of Apollo.

"[During Apollo] we did the impossible by making it possible," observed Nasa Administrator Bill Nelson.

"Now, we are doing that again, but for a different purpose, because this time we go back to the Moon to learn to live, to work, to invent, to create, in order to go on out into the cosmos to further explore. The plan is to get ready to go with humans to Mars late in the decade of the 2030s, and then even further beyond," he told reporters.

Mike Sarafin, the Artemis project manager who has been an ever-present in media conferences over the past three weeks, couldn't hide his delight at seeing a perfect splashdown: "Folks, this is what mission success looks like."


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