NASA's Orion space capsule splashed down safely in the Pacific on Sunday, completing the Artemis 1 mission, a more than 25-day journey around the Moon with an eye to returning humans there in just a few years, AFP reported.
After racing through the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of 40,000 kilometers per hour, the uncrewed capsule floated down to the sea with the help of three large red and white parachutes, as seen on NASA TV.
After a few hours of tests, the vessel will be recovered by a US Navy ship in waters off the coast of Mexico's Baja California.
The capsule shaped like a gumdrop had to withstand a temperature 2,800 degrees Celsius -- about half that of the surface of the sun -- as it entered the Earth's atmosphere.
The main goal of this mission was to test Orion's heat shield for the day when it is humans and not test mannequins riding inside, according to AFP.
Achieving success in the mission was key for NASA, which has invested tens of billions of dollars in the Artemis program due to take people back to the Moon and prepare for an eventual onward trip to Mars.
A first test of the capsule was carried out in 2014 but that time it stayed in Earth's orbit, coming back into the atmosphere at a slower speed of around 20,000 miles per hour.
Upon returning to Earth, the spacecraft has traveled 1.4 million miles since it took off November 16 with the help of a monstrous rocket called SLS.
At the end of November, Orion broke the record for the greatest distance from Earth for a spacecraft designed to carry humans, when it travelled 270,000 miles away from the Earth, breaking Apollo 13’s record.
Recovering the spacecraft will allow NASA to gather data that is crucial for future missions.
This next mission planned for 2024 will take a crew toward the Moon but still without landing on it. NASA is expected to name the astronauts selected soon.