NASA returned to train astronauts to go to the Moon after 51 years: How do they prepare?

The training of the crew of the Artemis II mission began last June and this would be the first time in 51 years that NASA has returned to prepare astronauts to travel to the Moon.

The last time astronauts stepped on the Moon was in 1972 and since then it has not been repeated, but now NASA’s Artemis program is preparing a crew for a new trip to Earth’s satellite.

The team is made up of four astronauts, 3 from NASA and one from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). In addition, the group will be the first woman and the first African-American to travel this important journey.

The chosen ones were the astronauts Reid Wiseman who will fulfill the role of crew leader; Jeremy Hansen of the CSA and the first Canadian to travel to the Moon; Victor Glover, who will be the first person of color; and Christina Koch, who will be the first woman to set foot on the lunar soil and who also holds the record for the longest journey by a woman into space.

Recall that NASA unveiled the team last April, after a successful test launch with the Artemis I mission, where the Orion rocket that will carry them successfully orbited the Moon.

Now, the team has already begun to prepare and this would be the first time in 51 years that the space agency returns to train people to travel to the Moon.

The training to go to the Moon is not the same as that received by astronauts who go to the International Space Station (ISS), for example, or other missions that require orbiting the Earth.

It should be noted that this is a much further journey and that, although the astronauts in question will not go down to the lunar surface with the Artemis II mission, they will with Artemis III in 2025, if everything goes well.

The classes and training began on June 21, according to the Ars Technica newspaper, and will last for 18 months, where they will receive theoretical classes in the classroom, airplane training, and simulations.

“Generally our goal is to have a little bit in the classroom, but the more we can get the team in front of the screens in the model vehicles and really immersed in that environment, the sooner the better,” said Jacki Mahaffey, NASA principal training officer.

The first lessons in June and July focused on the “fundamentals”, where the astronauts have been learning the flight plan, the details and the Orion spacecraft and also the Space Launch System rocket that will propel them into orbit.

Subsequently, NASA plans for the crew to become familiar with Orion operations in depth, this involves lessons on how to operate the spacecraft and simulations where they practice and learn the tasks and procedures they will carry out while orbiting the Moon.

Most of the training will take place at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and later those chosen will move to the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory there, where they will practice getting out of the Orion spacecraft when they return to Earth.

The astronauts will also travel to San Diego, where they will meet with the US Navy to plan the landing in the Pacific Ocean and will also train with special rescue forces at the Kennedy Space Center to prepare in case the mission is aborted after liftoff, the launch fails and they must be rescued.

Prior to the start of training, the astronauts met with Charlie Duke, who walked on the Moon on the Apollo 16 mission in April 1972, but the veteran warned that Artemis is quite different from the Apollo program.

“They have a very difficult mission. The landing area you are about to enter appears to be very rugged with a lot of deep shadows. If you look at the vehicle that they’re going to fly in, it has a lot more technology than ours, but it’s also a lot bigger,” he said.

“They were very interested in how we did things at Apollo. However, much of Apollo does not apply to them, because the technologies are so different,” Duke added.

The former astronaut also said that he hopes to be present for the next launch of Artemis II, which is estimated to be in 2024 and recalled the moments in which he made the orbital flight around the Moon 51 years ago.

Source: NASA,