Voici comment les astronautes de la NASA se préparent à retourner sur la Lune

Voici comment les astronautes de la NASA se préparent à retourner sur la Lune

Image: NASA.

NASA is about to launch its Artemis mission, a multi-stage quest to send astronauts back to the moon. As the agency nears the launch date for Artemis I, an unmanned flight around the Moon, it’s also preparing its astronauts to spend time on the lunar surface.

Preparations to go to the Moon are as intense as you’d expect: NASA’s team of 42 astronauts and 10 astronaut candidates undergo rigorous training, including studying rocky terrain in places like Iceland, extended stays at the bottom of a pool and virtual tours. simulations of reality.

NASA has not yet decided which astronauts will go to the Moon. However, the agency recently indicated that it plans to launch the Artemis II mission in 2024. This mission will send astronauts for a test flyby of the Moon, making it the first manned mission to go beyond low-Earth orbit of the Moon. Moon since 1972. Then, in 2025, NASA is expected to launch the Artemis III mission, which will send the first woman and first person of color to the surface of the Moon.

“Thinking on the geological time scale”

The Artemis program doesn’t stop there, NASA chief astronaut Reid Wiseman said last week. After that, the program is designed to allow “the first humans to travel to Mars, follow in our footsteps, build science labs, and inhabit another planet.”

“To me, this is the most impressive moment we’ve ever had here at NASA,” he added.

During a press conference, the astronaut described the elements of astronaut training. First, they spend time with the military, practicing landing a helicopter in the snow.

“To land on the Moon or Mars, we will have to descend almost vertically,” he explained. “Whether SpaceX Option A builds its human lunar lander that we’re going to fly, or other contractors line up for later missions, we’ll almost certainly go down to the vertical. »

NASA participated in a European training session a few months ago called Pangaea, which helped prepare them to study lunar geology. According to Reid Wiseman, the agency needs to think about how it will obtain lunar rock samples, store them and catalog them for scientists on Earth.

“It’s a totally different way of thinking about the geological time scale. The agency also trains extensively in Iceland, he added, believing it to be a “very good lunar surface analog.”

Virtual reality to land at the South Pole of the Moon

Next, NASA astronauts use their virtual reality lab to prepare to land at the South Pole of the Moon.

“If you have ever looked at the Moon at night, the South Pole has a very strange solar angle, with a very strange light hitting it,” says the astronaut. “There are permanently shadowed regions, and we have developed in the virtual reality world what it really looks like, with the exact angle of the Sun at which we are going to land. »

Reid Wiseman continues: “The lower half of his body can be pitch black and the upper half can be in blinding sunlight. The way shadows are cast on the lunar surface literally changes everything. So we can go into this virtual reality world for 10 minutes and answer 1000 questions. »

From the pool to the moon

For another simulated experience, NASA is currently equipping the Orion Crew Simulator at the Johnson Space Center. It will be ready later this year and will prepare the crew to fly aboard the Orion spacecraft.

Just 10 minutes north of the Johnson Space Center, astronauts train at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, a very large pool where astronauts have been training for spacewalks from the International Space Station for two decades. .

“We take part of that pool and see what it would be like to be on the moon, spending six hours in a lunar-class spacesuit doing research at the bottom of a pool,” explains the astronaut.

Teamwork and representation.

Of course, NASA also has astronauts on board the ISS – there are currently four – who are also preparing them for the trip to the Moon.

Reid Wiseman explains that the agency hopes to choose the astronauts who will fly aboard the Artemis II later this year. For all Artemis missions, the agency will primarily consider technical expertise, “the ability to dive into any situation, any technical need for the vehicle, understand when things aren’t going quite right, and understand when things are going right.”

In addition, he added, NASA is looking for people who can work as a team, with each other and with flight directors. The astronaut also emphasized the importance of sending a diverse crew to the Moon, noting that the new class of astronauts represents “all walks of life.”

“Our job at NASA is to do tough and fair things and to motivate our base, which is our youth,” he said. “And right now, our country is a diverse and extremely wealthy country. (…) We want every child to look at our poster and think, “Oh, I see myself in this, I can do this one day.” »

Source: ZDNet.com


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