Orion spacecraft zipped by the Moon this morning just 81 miles above the lunar surface

Five days after it launched, NASA's Orion spacecraft successfully executed a very close flyby of the Moon this morning, just 81 miles above the lunar surface. The first mission in the Artemis program—which in 2025 (at the soonest) will return humans to the Moon for the first time since 1972—Orion will "travel approximately 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and return to Earth over the course of 25.5 days," NASA explains.

From NASA:

Orion successfully conducted an outbound powered flyby burn at 7:44 a.m. to accelerate the spacecraft, harness the force from the Moon's gravity, and direct Orion toward a distant retrograde orbit beyond the Moon.

"This orbit is different than the orbit done during the Apollo program, in which the spacecraft and its crew orbited much closer to the lunar surface in a more circular fashion," said NASA spokesperson Sandra Jones. "Distant retrograde orbit is important because it helps us to learn about how a spacecraft functions in a deep space environment."

Orion will return home on December for a splash-down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego.

Full NASA TV broadcast below.