The claim: Post implies Artemis I mission is fake due to longer flight time to reach the moon
NASA launched the Orion spacecraft into orbit on Nov. 16 as part of Artemis I, one of several missions seeking to eventually put humans back on the moon. Humans last walked on the moon as part of the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
Several social media users, some of whom appear to believe the initial moon landing was faked, have called into question the validity of the Artemis I mission.
One Nov. 25 Instagram post (direct link, archive link), which gained over 1,000 likes in three days, implies the mission is not real because the current mission took six days to reach lunar orbit, while it only took the 1969 Apollo 11 mission three days to do so.
The post includes images of both launches side-by-side, along with text that reads, "They just don't make launches like they used to." The post's caption includes a number of hashtags related to conspiracy theories about NASA.
The implied claim here is wrong, though.
While the post correctly cites the amount of time each mission took to reach lunar orbit, there is a reason for the discrepancy. Since this was the first launch of a new rocket and spacecraft, teams intentionally built in more travel time to perform routine tests and checks, NASA said.
USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the post for comment.
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Time built-in for testing
The Artemis I mission was the first launch of a new rocket and spacecraft, said Tiffany Fairley, a NASA media specialist. This meant more time was required to test the latest technology.
"Teams intentionally built in time during the mission to be able to test communications, perform inspections on the spacecraft, troubleshoot issues and other mission objectives," she said.
When the Apollo missions occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the goal was to get astronauts to the moon and back as quickly as possible, said Hank Pernicka, the director of Missouri Science and Technology's space systems engineering laboratory.
"It was designed to maximize astronaut safety," he said.
Artemis I was un-maned.
The Artemis I mission is also meant to go further into deep space, while Apollo landed on the moon, Fairley said. She added that the Orion spacecraft is "larger and more advanced than the vehicles used during the Apollo program."
The Artemis I mission "will demonstrate the performance of both Orion and the SLS rocket and test our capabilities to orbit the Moon and return to Earth," according to the NASA Artemis I presskit. "The flight will pave the way for future missions to the lunar vicinity, including landing the first woman and first person of color on the surface of the Moon."
Images and videos related to the current mission can be found on NASA's website.
Our rating: Missing context
Based on our research, we rate MISSING CONTEXT the implication that the Artemis I mission is fake due to its longer flight time to reach the moon. The Orion spacecraft is larger and more advanced than the ones for the Apollo missions, and it has intentionally added more travel time for testing purposes, NASA says.
Our fact-check sources:
Tiffany Fairley, Nov. 28, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Hank Pernicka, Nov. 30, Phone call with USA TODAY
NASA, July 8, 2009, Apollo 12
NASA blog, Nov. 21, 2022, Orion Successfully Completes Lunar Flyby, Re-acquires Signal with Earth – Artemis
NASA, May 16, 2022, Artemis I Mission Availability
NASA blog, Nov. 26, 2022, Artemis I – Flight Day 11: Orion Surpasses Apollo 13 Record Distance from Earth – Artemis
NASA, accessed Nov. 30, Artemis 1 Images
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Artemis I trip to moon will take longer by design