• Orion entered distant retrograde orbit Friday and beat the Apollo record Saturday
  • The spacecraft will reach its furthest distance from the Earth Monday
  • The next Artemis mission will take a major step further by bringing a crew around the Moon

Orion has officially surpassed Apollo 13's record distance from the Earth. What's next for the spacecraft and the mission?

Orion entered distant retrograde orbit Friday, according to NASA. On Saturday, it surpassed the record set by the Apollo 13 mission for the distance from Earth of a spacecraft designed to bring humans to space and back again.

At 252,133 miles from the Earth, the spacecraft has already beaten the record set by the Apollo 13 mission, which was 248,655 miles from the planet. By Sunday, Orion was already more than 264,000 miles from the Earth. But Orion will widen the gap further, as it is expected to reach 270,000 miles from the Earth at its maximum distance from the planet Monday.

The spacecraft is now on its six-day journey to cruise along the lunar orbit before it sets course back to Earth. It is set to splash down onto the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11.

It's quite fitting for the Artemis I mission to break Apollo 13's record as it "builds on the experience of Apollo." As crucial as Artemis I is, it is only the first step toward a much larger mission of ushering in the "next era of human exploration."

For its part, Artemis I aims to test the important systems for a crewed deep space mission, from operating properly far from home and maintaining communication, to keeping astronauts safe and alive even in case of an emergency. The second flight, Artemis II, will take a massive leap further to become the first mission that will take a crew of astronauts to the Moon in decades.

That second mission, set for launch sometime in 2024, will be testing even more systems that Artemis astronauts will need to live in deep space. It will take humans on a trip around the Moon for a lunar flyby and back to Earth again.

Should these earlier missions go according to plan and systems appear to be in order, Artemis III, which is still a few years away, will be the agency's first Moon landing mission since 1972. It's set to take the first woman and the first astronaut of color to our satellite.

"With Artemis, humans will return to the lunar surface, and this time to stay," NASA said. "NASA will lead the way in collaboration with international and commercial partners to establish the first long-term presence on the Moon. Then, we will use what we learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars."

The new suit that will be worn on Artemis missions is called the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU for short. NASA