NASA is preparing for its historic Artemis mission which will see the first woman land on the lunar South Pole in 2024. To do this, the team needs to test out lunar surface operations and some experiments are more exciting than others as these latest pictures to come out of NASA indicate.
For instance, in NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL), astronauts experiment functioning in their spacesuits in circumstances similar to those that will be found on the Moon's surface.
“This early testing will help determine the best complement of facilities for hardware development and requirements for future Artemis training and missions,” said Daren Welsh, extravehicular activity test lead for these Artemis preparation test runs.
“At the same time, we are going to be able to gather valuable feedback on spacewalk tools and procedures that will help inform some of the objectives for the missions.”
Astronauts are undertaking a variety of tasks underwater including picking up samples of lunar regolith and planting an American flag. They are also evaluating how the crew might get up and down a ladder safely and how to conduct successful moonwalks.
“We can evaluate tools in a lab or the rock yard, but you can learn so much when you put a pressurized spacesuit on and have to work within the limitations of its mobility,” Welsh said. “These NBL runs are so valuable for understanding the human performance component and ensuring our astronauts are as safe as possible.”
But it's not just underwater simulations that this intrepid team undertakes. They also conduct tests in different analog environments such as at Johnson’s rock yard, an external site that simulates general features of the lunar surface terrain.
“We have experience with space station, but we need to determine how we’re going to train the crew for surface operations during these specific missions,” Welsh said. “There is a lot of work to do to get the facilities ready to work for lunar missions and figure out how to facilitate the training.”