Night Walking and Geological Studies: Training NASA Astronauts to Return to the Moon

This is how NASA trains future astronauts

Human I have already waited over 55 years to return moon. This wait will continue for about another two years, if all tests and plans continue on track.

This time, which many scientists consider eternal and seems never to come, will finally conclude with NASA's new Project Artemis, until a man and a woman can stand on the gray surface of our natural satellite.

During testing and building A powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, The US space agency trains potential future astronauts Various exercises and exams.

The harsh light of the moon's south pole means astronauts must prepare to work in eerily lit landscapes. (Credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel)

In what was the largest test ever conducted, NASA tested the skills of two astronauts and various equipment in the desert volcanic field From San Francisco near Flagstaff, Arizona.

Thus, surrounded by hundreds of people, including prominent scientists, famous astronauts and senior NASA officials, NASA astronauts Kate Robins And Andrew Douglas He had the opportunity to act out moonwalk scenarios Replica space suits In a landscape similar to the moon.

The simulation included night tours and collecting soil samples (NASA)

Their path was dimly lit by the lights of their spacesuit helmets, as they sought to find geological treasures in the volcanic landscape: Moon rocks that they could collect and bring back to Earth, that would reveal the secrets of this frozen world that… NASA plans to reconsider.

Not just staying for a day, but the long-term goal now is to send people to the moon's surface to stay for about 10 to 15 days. And carry out deep experiments there, during the mission known as Artemis 3, scheduled to be launched at the end of 2026. In the future, It will be the installation of the first human colony.

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That's why NASA is now training its astronauts to make the most of their precious time on our natural satellite, since no human has set foot on the moon since the last Apollo crew lifted off in December 1972.

Mock spacesuits and an instrument cart mimic the equipment Artemis astronauts could use on the moon

“There are so many things we need to relearn or discover. “This is why we plot the path as we navigate it,” says Julianne Gross, a planetary scientist at the University of California, California. NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, Who will supervise the Artemis samples upon their return to Earth.

“We incorporated from the beginning the scientific rigor that these missions would need,” Robbins later added.

This week, NASA published photos from the test site in San Francisco, where You can see astronauts wearing space suits to walk in that desert. They also operated various tools, vehicles and tools to work and collect samples.

A satellite view of SP Crater in Arizona shows the volcanic crater and lava flow serving as a lunar landscape for astronauts during training. (Credit: NASA/GSFC)

Specifically for the latter, in addition to NASA experts, there were the world's most prominent geologists United States Geological Survey (USGS) Which helped train the Apollo astronauts in the 1960s, and is known as JETT5 by the Joint Human Mobility Test Team Practicing activities outside the vehicle(EVA) on the surface, was performed on private land near a cinder cone known as SP Crater in Flagstaff.

To mimic the lighting conditions at the Moon's south pole, JETT5 test organizers built a “solar car,” which was actually a giant spotlight moving over the landscape. To Robbins and Douglas, the light looked like a distant sun floating just above the horizon.

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The astronauts walked cautiously across the dark landscape, relying on some lights they carried in their helmets and in their hands to aid them in their work. Robbins in particular was thrilled to have a portable light that she could point to where she wanted to go, in addition to helmet-mounted lights that only indicated the direction she was looking. “He is It is absolutely necessary to have a light illuminating the area near my feetHe told mission control while walking, information that could help astronauts when they do the same thing 400,000 kilometers away on the gray surface of the moon.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins selects a geological exploration instrument during a nighttime training exercise. (Credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel)

he JETT5's goal was to develop tools and procedures suitable for Artemis III astronauts on the lunar surface. “Field testing plays a critical role in helping us test all the systems, hardware and technology we will need to conduct successful lunar operations during Artemis missions,” he said. Barbara Janowico, Director of Field Tests at Johnson Space Center.

“Our engineering and science teams have worked together seamlessly to ensure we are prepared every step of the way when astronauts set foot on the moon again,” he added.

the The final test consists of four simulated moonwalks Which follows the operations planned for Artemis III and beyond, as well as six technologically advanced tours. During the advanced races, teams will demonstrate technology that could be used for future Artemis missions.

The goal of the mission is to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon, and Peru will contribute for approximately 20 years. Photo/NASA.

Science is an essential part of the Artemis programAccording to NASA, that's why astronaut training has been ramped up to include more field geology, to learn more about the types of rocks and dust they'll be trawling around and collecting to bring back to Earth.

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During the last three Apollo missions, NASA has intensified this training, with each astronaut receiving approximately 1,000 hours of scientific studiesAccording to Dean Eppler, a lunar geologist who participated in the adventure. “We see Apolo as the way to do this because it has been so successful“, it states.

In 1971, on Apollo 15, for example, two former test pilots discovered a glowing fragment of what turned out to be the primordial lunar crust and brought it home. This sample, called Genesis Rock, helped geologists understand how the Moon solidified from an ocean of molten magma more than four billion years ago.

This will be the Artemis 2 mission in 2025, which will orbit astronauts around the moon but will not land. The person who will do this is Artemis III (NASA)

In the 2000s and 2010s, NASA trained astronauts to observe Earth from the International Space Station. Now, with visits to places like asteroid craters and volcanic terrain, astronauts are experiencing what the Moon would be like.

“This way they know that when you get to the surface of the moon, if things aren't as you envisioned, it's okay,” he added. Cynthia Evans JSC geologist who manages astronaut geology training. The Johnson Space Center science team will develop several science targets for future field tests.

The testing undertaken included the creation of geological maps, a list of scientific questions, and prioritized moonwalk locations for the main and backup “landing sites” for testing. The next stages will be more complex and challenging and some even simulate possible accidents.

Lovell Loxley

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