The White House has congratulated NASA on the success of its epic moon mission.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who also chairs the National Space Council, praised the agency and its partners for their work on the successful Artemis 1 mission to the moon , which splashed down on Sunday afternoon (Dec. 11).
"I applaud the team for their work on completing a successful Artemis 1 mission. We're one step closer to returning astronauts to the moon," Harris wrote in a tweet on Sunday.
The Orion spacecraft made a successful splashdown at 12:40 p.m. EST (1740 GMT) in the Pacific Ocean, concluding the 25.5-day Artemis 1 moon mission that launched on Nov. 16. The capsule finished its journey within sight of the USS Portland, a Navy ship on duty in the Pacific Ocean for recovery operations.
Harris was active in the space sphere in the summer and fall leading up to the Artemis 1 launch, including attending one of the mission launch attempts in late August. She also headlined an initiative to increase diversity in the space industry, by prioritizing high-needs professions among a wider swath of students in partnership with several companies.
The Vice President also continued calls to abandon destructive anti-satellite testing during a meeting of the National Space Council on Sept. 9, and she worked with President Joe Biden and NASA officials to unveil the first science-quality images of the James Webb Space Telescope on July 11.
Meanwhile, Biden signed the first NASA authorization bill in five years, which includes language for the United States to extend its participation in the International Space Station from 2024 to 2030. (The orbiting lab's other partners must also sign on for the extension to happen.)
The larger Artemis program aims to have a suite of crewed missions to the moon and to assemble a space station orbiting the moon, called Gateway, to open up exploration across the solar system in the 2020s and beyond.
The first crewed mission will be Artemis 2, which will test life support systems during a moon-circling mission expected in 2024. If that mission flies on time, Artemis 3 is scheduled to put astronaut boots on the surface in 2025 or 2026.
Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.