Nasa testing new Artemis spacesuits underwater for 2024 return mission to the Moon
NASA has begun underwater tests of its next-generation spacesuits ahead of plans to land astronauts on the Moon in 2024.
Photos of the trials at Nasa’s Johnson Space Center in Texas show suit-clad engineers walking at the bottom of a pool under several metres of water.
Nasa has begun testing its new spacesuits underwater ahead of a planned manned mission to the Moon in 2024[/caption]
The tests – which include practising picking up Moon rocks and planting an American flag – help astronauts prepare for working in low-G conditions.
Nasa’s next manned lunar mission is dubbed Artemis and will mark the first time people have landed on the Moon in nearly 50 years.
“This early testing will help determine the best complement of facilities for hardware development and requirements for future Artemis training and missions,” said Nasa’s Daren Welsh.
“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.”
The tests include practising picking up Moon rocks and planting an American flag[/caption]
The trials will help astronauts prepare for working in low-gravity conditions[/caption]
Nasa said teams were testing tools and developing training programmes in the Houston-based pool, known as the the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL).
They’re using demo versions of the spacesuits for now, with the real ones still in development.
Two suits designed for moonwalks were shown off by Nasa last year that allow for extra movement on the lunar surface.
“Astronauts are practicing a variety of tasks, including picking up samples of lunar regolith, examining a lunar lander, and planting an American flag,” Nasa wrote in a blog post.
Nasa unveiled two new spacesuits designed for moonwalking last year[/caption]
“There are many fundamentals that the teams have to consider and work through, such as how crew might get up and down a ladder safely, how to swing a hammer safely, and how to conduct successful moonwalks in different lighting conditions than the Apollo-era moonwalks.”
Tests will inform how to carry out future moonwalks, including how many to conduct during a mission and how far from a lander the crew will travel.
In addition to the buoyancy lab, Nasa is also putting its state-of-the-art suits though their paces on dry land, the space agency said.
Tests are occurring at Johnson’s rock yard, a large, outdoor area which simulates the terrain of the lunar surface.
Nasa’s Artemis lunar mission – key facts
Nasa’s Artemis lunar mission – key facts
- Nasa has pledged to land man on the Moon in 2024
- The mission, dubbed Artemis, will mark the first time astronauts have set foot on the lunar surface since 1972
- A giant Nasa rocket dubbed the Space Launch System will carry astronauts beyond Earth’s atmosphere
- Once at the Moon, two astronauts will descend to the surface from an orbiting craft called the Lunar Gateway
- Nasa has pledged that one of the landing crewa will be female, marking the first time a woman has set foot on the Moon
- The pair would land on the lunar south pole, where vast reserves of frozen water could be tapped for future explorers
- The landing system that brought the astronauts to the surface will then blast back to the orbiting Gateway satellite
- They will board an Orion capsule for the 250,000-mile trip back to Earth
- Nasa has a mountain of technical challenges to overcome before Artemis gets the green light
- It’s still not clear if everything will be ready in time for the ambitious 2024 launch date
- Nasa boss Jim Bridenstine has said the Moon will serve as a critical training ground for Mars expeditions, perhaps in the 2030s
Nasa has plenty of experience in training astronauts for spacewalks at the International Space Station, but hasn’t conducted a moonwalk in decades.
“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.”
Nasa unveiled its next-generation spacesuits in October 2019.
Two suits tailored for moonwalking were shown off by Nasa engineers in a bizarre catwalk-style show at its Washington, D.C. headquarters.
One suit of orange fabric will be worn by astronauts when inside spacecraft. Astronauts will wear a much bigger, mostly white suit on the lunar surface.
The new suits make it much easier to walk, bend and squat when working on the lunar surface
“We want systems that allow our astronauts to be scientists on the surface of the moon,” Nasa’s Chris Hansen said at the time.
he new suits (artist impression) make it much easier to walk, bend and squat when walking on the lunar surface[/caption]
Nasa will build a ‘lander’ to take two astronauts to and from the Moon as part of its Artemis mission[/caption]
Nasa has named its next lunar mission Artemis and promises the first moonwalking team will include a woman.
The pair would land on the lunar south pole, where vast reserves of frozen water could be tapped for future explorers.
Across several missions spanning 2024 to 2028, the eventual goal is to colonise the Moon as a staging ground for future missions to Mars.
The last time astronauts landed on the lunar surface was 1972.
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