NASA is currently conducting training for the Artemis moon mission that will see the next man and the first woman land on the moon. Mission training underway at the Johnson Space Center using the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL). The NBL is a massive pool of water with sand and rocks at the bottom used to simulate weightlessness.
During the testing, astronauts wear evaluation versions of the spacesuit to be worn on the moon to get used to how they move and function wearing the modern spacesuit. Engineers participate in the project using “hardhat” dive equipment to simulate different tasks crew could do on the moon’s surface. NASA notes that early testing will help determine the best compliment of hardware development facilities and requirements for future Artemis training and missions.
Tests are currently focusing on evaluating Johnson’s facilities for Artemis spacewalk testing, development, and crew training. Astronauts perform various tasks such as picking up samples of lunar regolith, examining a lunar lander, and planting the American flag. NASA expects the tests to inform future mission planners on various subjects, including how many spacewalks to conduct during a mission, how long the spacewalks will be, and how far away from a lander the crew can travel.
NASA extravehicular activity test lead Daren Welsh is in charge of the testing. He notes that tools can be evaluated in the lab or the rock yard, but there’s more to be learned by putting astronauts into a pressurized spacesuit. During the testing, the team is working on some of the mission basics, such as how the crew might get up and down a ladder safely, how to conduct safe missions in different lighting conditions than the Apollo crew operated in, and other tasks.
The testing is paying dividends already. According to NASA, the team is becoming more familiar with the service operation concepts. Testing will continue, and as it does, the scope of testing will be expanded with plans to complete full lunar spacewalk timelines. NASA plans to launch the Artemis mission in 2024.