Astronomy

NASA is Practicing for the Moon With Partial Space Suits

In just a few short years, NASA hopes to put humans back on the lunar surface. The first moonwalk in more than 50 years is scheduled for no earlier than September 2026 as part of the Artemis III mission. In preparation, astronauts, scientists, and flight controllers are conducting simulated spacewalks here on Earth.

“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 of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “Our engineering and science teams have worked together seamlessly to ensure we are prepared every step of the way for when astronauts step foot on the Moon again.”

Astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas donned mock spacesuits and test gear for a week of simulated moonwalking near Flagstaff, Arizona, where a volcanic desert served as a stand-in for the lunar surface.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins observes a geology sample she collected during a simulated moonwalk.
NASA/Josh Valcarcel

The tests were multipurpose, making sure that communications protocols with mission control were effective, putting technological devices that will used by moonwalkers through their paces, and doing dry runs of science-related activities, such as gathering geology samples.

The technology tested included an augmented reality visor that could provide navigational information to astronauts, helping them stay oriented and relocate the lunar lander in an emergency.
The test also simulated the communications procedures, allowing both astronauts and ground-based- teams to work together remotely to retrieve the most valuable geological samples and problem-solve in real-time.

“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,” said Cherie Achilles, science officer for the test at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This simulation gives us an opportunity to practice conducting geology from afar in real-time.”

NASA astronaut Andre Douglas collects soil samples during the first in a series of four simulated moonwalks in Arizona. NASA/Josh Valcarcel

All told the astronauts performed four ‘moonwalks’ and six technology demonstrations over the course of the week. These activities represent the fifth in a series of field tests, and are the “highest fidelity Artemis moonwalk mission simulation to date,” according to a NASA press release.

Artemis III is targeting the lunar south pole, which is a new environment for humans, far removed from the landing sites of the Apollo mission of 1969-72. The permanently shadowed craters of the south pole are expected to hold water ice, a valuable resource in space not just as a refreshing drink, but also as a source of the primary ingredients (hydrogen and oxygen) needed to make rocket fuel.

Rubins and Douglas’s space suits were open-sleeved for the Arizona desert, but prototypes of the actual spacesuits, currently under development by Axiom Space, are also undergoing testing. Future tests will have them put through their paces underwater at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas.

Learn More:

NASA Tests Technology, Practices Artemis Moonwalks in Arizona Desert.” NASA.

Scott Alan Johnston

Scott Alan Johnston is a science writer/editor at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, a contributor at Universe Today, and a historian of science. He is the author of "The Clocks are Telling Lies," which tells the story of the early days of global timekeeping, when 19th-century astronomers and engineers struggled to organize time in a newly interconnected world. You can follow Scott on Twitter @ScottyJ_PhD

Recent Posts

Fish Could Turn Regolith into Fertile Soil on Mars

What a wonderful arguably simple solution. Here’s the problem, we travel to Mars but how…

1 day ago

New Simulation Explains how Supermassive Black Holes Grew so Quickly

One of the main scientific objectives of next-generation observatories (like the James Webb Space Telescope)…

1 day ago

Don't Get Your Hopes Up for Finding Liquid Water on Mars

In the coming decades, NASA and China intend to send the first crewed missions to…

2 days ago

Webb is an Amazing Supernova Hunter

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has just increased the number of known distant supernovae…

2 days ago

Echoes of Flares from the Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole

The supermassive black hole at the heart of our Milky Way Galaxy is a quiet…

3 days ago

Warp Drives Could Generate Gravitational Waves

Will future humans use warp drives to explore the cosmos? We're in no position to…

3 days ago