NASA's Orion spacecraft breaks Apollo distance record from Earth while orbiting the moon

Orion reached nearly 270,000 miles away from Earth, the furthest a human-rated spacecraft has traveled from our home planet. NASA's Artemis 1 mission is testing the Orion spacecraft to fly astronauts by 2024.

NASA's Orion spacecraft continued zooming away from Earth and the moon Monday, surpassing Apollo 13's distance record from Earth by about 20,000 miles. 

After launching from Florida earlier this month, Orion and its manikin passengers are over 12 days into its Artemis 1 test flight in a distant retrograde orbit of the moon. 

On Monday, Orion marked nearly 270,000 miles away from Earth, the furthest a human-rated spacecraft has traveled from our home planet. 

The Artemis 1 mission surpassed the Apollo 13 mission distance record on Saturday when the spacecraft reached 248,655 miles from Earth. 

According to NASA, at its farthest from home, Orion traveled 268,553 miles from Earth, more than 43,000 miles from the moon. The milestone happened 12 days and 14 hours into the Artemis 1 mission. 

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson described the Artemis 1 mission as an "extraordinary success," saying the spacecraft has hit major milestones as planned.

NASA plans to use Orion and the Space Launch System rocket to send astronauts back to the moon under the Artemis III mission in 2025. The final part of the journey to the lunar surface will be provided by SpaceX's Starship spaceship, which Elon Musk's company continues to test in Texas

Cameras on Orion are sending back live views from the distant retrograde orbit of the moon. As NASA's spacecraft traveled further away from Earth Monday, the video showed the moon eclipsing the blue marble of Earth.

Early on in its test flight, Orion flew by the far side of the moon, sending back detailed images of craters on the lunar surface. 

Artemis 1 lead flight director Rick LaBrode said Orion would make a flyby of the Apollo mission landing sites next week before beginning its trip back to Earth. A previous flyby happened when the landing sites were in darkness, but this time the area should be in sunlight when Orion passes by. 

Throughout the maiden voyage of Orion, NASA has continued to work through issues with the spacecraft. 

Last week, NASA’s Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center in Houston temporarily lost communication with the spacecraft while reconfiguring giant radio antennas back on Earth. 

The anomaly occurred after Orion exited the moon’s gravitational sphere of influence, all while producing stunning imagery of the lunar body and Earth along its journey.

However, mission managers say overall, the Artemis 1 test flight has exceeded expectations. 

On Thursday, Orion will begin heading back toward the moon. Another lunar flyby is planned on the 20th day of the mission when the spacecraft will fly about 80 miles above the moon.

The next flight for Orion, known as Artemis II, will include a NASA astronaut crew to orbit the moon.

The Artemis 1 mission will culminate on Dec. 11 when Orion puts its heatshield to the test, blasting back into Earth's atmosphere and landing in the Pacific Ocean.

After the splashdown, Nelson said NASA would begin looking toward Artemis II using data collected during the test flight.

"When Orion comes home, splashing down in a couple of weeks, we look forward to learning what all those sensors have told us in order to be able to put humans on Artemis II," Nelson said.

NASA Artemis 1 mission manager Mike Sarafin said the space agency won't name the crew flying on Artemis II until after Orion comes home.