Space exploration is a tricky and at times, dangerous business. The safety of the crews is of paramount importance and escape technology is always factored into spacecraft design. Whilst Artemis I did not require such provisions when it launched Artemis II with astronauts on board is being prepared with a ski-lift style escape system to take them far away from the launch pad.
Artemis I was launched back in November 2022 after a total of four failed launches. at 6:47 UT the first of the Artemis series of spacecraft lifted off safely for a flight that lasting 25 days. Following an orbit around the Moon, it returned safely to Earth completing phase one of the Artemis program.
The next phase, Artemis II will repeat the success of Artemis I but with crew on board. In this second phase to NASA establishing a long term presence on the Moon, the crew will experience a 10 day flight. The main aim to test the technology needed to support a human crew. Artemis II is currently slated to launch no sooner than September 2025.
With the human inhabitants on board Artemis II NASA of course, have considered crew safety and escape methods at various stages of the flight. In a series of tests known as the Integrated System Verification and Validation Tests, NASA has a series of seven tests to complete. Test Five involves the test of the emergency egress procedures and technology.
The emergency egress test demonstrates what will happen in the event of an emergency during the countdown that requires the astronauts to evacuate the Orion module. If an emergency event occurs the crew and support personnel will immediately head to the emergency egress baskets which are currently being installed.
The baskets are like ski lift gondolas that are hung from overhead wires – known as a catenary system – suspended from the mobile launcher. The baskets would transport the personnel to the ground far from Orion where emergency transport vehicles would be waiting to take them further away. Overall, NASA plans to spend about a week practicing and operating the emergency drills both day and night.
In the first few tests no-one will ride in the baskets, instead, the tests will be conducted with water tanks filled with different volumes of water to replicate different passenger weights.