NASA Astronauts Simulate Moonwalk in Preparation For Artemis Landings (Photo Gallery)

New Haunting Moon-Like Training for NASA Astronauts

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir recently shared training images that give the illusion of astronauts returning to the moon. These photos were released on the X platform (formerly known as Twitter) and showed her and an unidentified partner in spacesuit training. The rocky terrain around them strongly resembles the lunar surface, but, in reality, it’s a specially designed rock yard at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. This training area is equipped with lamps and black walls to replicate the harsh lunar conditions.

In one of the pictures, Meir, an experienced astronaut from the International Space Station, exchanges fist bumps with her partner while standing on the simulated lunar landscape. The spacesuits they wear are not fully sealed; they are mockups designed to help astronauts become accustomed to the weight and feel of these bulky outfits.

These exercises are crucial for NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to land astronauts on the moon during the Artemis 3 mission, set for no earlier than 2025 or 2026, according to Meir. She expressed her appreciation for the incredible team that has put in the work for this training. (Artemis 3 will mark the first human lunar landing since Apollo 17 in 1972.)

JSC’s facility is just one of the ways astronauts simulate moonwalking. Another example is the Joint EVA Test Team (JETT), an annual exercise held in Flagstaff, Arizona. During this exercise, astronauts venture into a desert landscape at night where lamps are used to replicate the intense lunar sun. (“EVA” stands for “extravehicular activity,” which is synonymous with a spacewalk.)

Meir mentioned in her tweet that this year’s planned JETT exercise has been delayed until 2024. Last year, NASA astronauts Zena Cardman and Drew Feustel (an American-Canadian citizen who has since retired from the program) participated in the exercise. The Arizona landscape offers features reminiscent of the moon, such as challenging terrain, intriguing geology, and limited communication infrastructure, as noted by NASA officials in October 2022 during last year’s expedition.

While the Artemis 3 crew has not been announced yet, the round-the-moon mission Artemis 2 has four astronauts assigned for an expedition scheduled for late 2024. The Artemis 2 crew includes NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen. The uncrewed mission, Artemis 1, successfully orbited the moon in late 2022.

NASA is committed to promoting diversity within the Artemis program, aiming to include women, people of color, and international astronauts. Victor Glover will be the first Black person to leave low Earth orbit, Christina Koch will be the first woman to do so, and Jeremy Hansen will be the first non-American. Notably, records for diversity continue to be set in various other areas of space exploration, such as the historic all-woman spacewalk that included Jessica Meir and Christina Koch. Koch, in turn, spent nearly a year aboard the International Space Station.

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