Artemis 2 Moon astronaut praises the supersonic T-38 trainer

In a newly released video on Twitter, Artemis 2 astronaut Jeremy Hansen gives high praises for the veteran T-38 supersonic trainer aircraft.
Christopher McFadden
Two T-38 trainers and Space Shuttle Columbia during STS-3 mission.

NASA/Wikimedia Commons 

One of the selected astronauts for the upcoming Artemis 2 Moon has described the supersonic T-38 trainer as difficult to fly but in a good way. In a video released on the 18th of July, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Jeremy Hansen explained that "we use these airplanes because they're challenging." 

A real challenge

"We can have two astronauts in the cockpit together working as a team, just like we do in a spacecraft. We have so many amazing simulators here ... but none of those simulators will kill you. This will. That is one of the benefits of this training, is that we are managing real risks preparing us to go to space," he added.

The T-38 has gained admiration from several astronauts, including fellow CSA astronaut David Saint-Jacques, who was part of the 2009 class and went on a mission to the International Space Station in 2018-19. In 2015, Saint-Jacques created a YouTube video praising the T-38's abilities. As a medical doctor, he received instruction in basic flight maneuvers from Hansen, a fellow astronaut who was also chosen by CSA around the same time.

"You are in an uncomfortable cockpit," Saint-Jacques said in the video of the T-38 experience. "You’re wearing a helmet, oxygen mask. There's tens of dials in front of you. You have to monitor all that data; the radio, on many channels talking at the same time. You have to constantly filter out what is important, and to make decisions that could have big impacts. You cannot press pause while you're flying a jet," he added.

According to Northrop Grumman, over 72,000 pilots in the United States Air Force have received training on the T-38 since its production began in 1961. Despite manufacturing ceasing in 1972, more than 500 of these aircraft remain in use by both the Air Force and NASA.

According to NASA, the supersonic trainer can fly as fast as Mach 1.6 and reach an altitude of 40,000 feet (12 kilometers), exceeding the altitude of commercial airliners. Pilots can experience up to seven Gs of force, which can cause an untrained person to lose consciousness. Additionally, holding up the pilot's neck is compared to balancing a cinder block, according to NASA officials.

A great trainer

In addition to serving as a general training aircraft, the T-38 was also utilized during the space shuttle program. One such use was having the supersonic trainer accompany the shuttle during early landings, allowing T-38 pilots to provide feedback to shuttle pilots on the condition of their spacecraft, if necessary.

Pilots were trained on how to safely return a space shuttle to Earth using modified T-38s. The alterations included extra-large airbrakes and lowered landing gear, which had to be certified by NASA for safety before being used for training purposes.

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