A tiny NASA spacecraft launches to test out a new orbit around the Moon

Early this morning, a small NASA spacecraft about the size of a microwave began a four-month trip to the Moon.

When it gets there, it will enter a unique, long lunar orbit that no other NASA mission has been to before.

The spacecraft just wants to try out this orbit and see what it's like. Because it's the same orbit that astronauts going to the moon could use in the next 10 years.

"Near rectilinear halo orbit," or NRHO for short, is the name for this unique orbit. It's a special seven-day route that spacecraft can take around the Moon.

For one day, it brings them close to the Moon's surface, and for the other six, it takes them far away.

NASA is thinking about using this orbit as part of its Artemis programme, which aims to send the first woman and the first person of colour to the Moon's surface.

NASA wants to build a new space station called the Gateway around the Moon over the next 10 years.

The Gateway will be a place where future astronauts who want to go to the Moon's surface can train and live. 

And the space agency wants to park the Gateway on this winding path around the Moon.

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