Logged-out Icon

NASA astronauts prep for Artemis moonwalks in Arizona desert

The Arizona desert's similarity to the Moon's surface has made it a training ground for lunar exploration since the Apollo era. This recent test, however, marks the most high-fidelity simulation of an Artemis moonwalk mission to date.

NASA astronauts prep for Artemis III moonwalks in Arizona desert

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is gearing up for the Artemis missions, aiming to return humans to the Moon’s surface. To prepare astronauts for the challenges of lunar exploration, the space agency recently conducted a week-long field test in Arizona’s San Francisco Volcanic Field, known for its resemblance to the lunar landscape.

Astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas donned mock spacesuits and ventured into the desert, simulating moonwalks. Their tasks included testing new technologies, evaluating existing hardware, and practicing scientific operations relevant to Artemis missions.

This wasn’t a solo operation. Two integrated teams worked together. The “field team” in Arizona, comprising astronauts, engineers, and specialists, conducted the simulated moonwalks. Meanwhile, a team of flight controllers and scientists at Houston’s Johnson Space Center monitored their activities and provided guidance.

“Field tests play a critical role in helping us test all of the systems, hardware, and technology we’ll need to conduct successful lunar operations during Artemis missions,” said Barbara Janoiko, director for the test.

The week saw four simulated moonwalks mimicking operations planned for Artemis III and beyond, along with six trials of advanced technologies. These included testing heads-up displays with augmented reality features and lighting beacons to help guide astronauts back to their lander.

“During Artemis III, the astronauts will be our science operators on the lunar surface with an entire science team supporting them from here on Earth,” explained Cherie Achilles, science officer for the test. “This simulation gives us an opportunity to practice conducting geology from afar in real time.”

The Arizona desert’s similarity to the Moon’s surface, with its craters, faults, and volcanic features, has made it a training ground for lunar exploration since the Apollo era. This recent test, however, marks the most high-fidelity simulation of an Artemis moonwalk mission to date. Data collected and lessons learned will be used to refine operations for future Artemis missions, technology development efforts, and collaborations with commercial vendors.

Named after the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology, Artemis is NASA’s ambitious initiative aimed at returning humans to the Moon. The U.S. space agency launched the Artemis I mission with the gigantic Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket in history, carrying the Orion spacecraft on November 16 2022. NASA concluded its unmanned test mission – Artemis I – after its Orion spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific on December 11, 2022.

Earlier this year,  NASA announced its plans to postpone the Artemis II and Artemis III missions to September 2025 and September 2026, respectively. The delay will allow teams to work through challenges associated with first-time developments, operations, and integration. However, the Artemis IV, the first mission to the Gateway lunar space station, remains on track for 2028, NASA said.

Posts you may like

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website