A simulated moonwalk on Earth is NASA’s way of preparing for astronauts who may walk on the lunar surface as early as 2025. This month, astronauts are trekking to a special environment where they will be exposed to conditions as close as possible to those on the moon without leaving Earth: the Arizona desert.
“The Arizona desert possesses many characteristics similar to the lunar environment, including challenging terrain, interesting geology, and minimal communications infrastructure, all of which are astronomical,” NASA officials said in an Oct. 3 statement. what crew members will experience near the lunar south pole during the Artemis mission.”
The astronauts dabble in thousands of extinct volcanoes and other geological features similar to the lunar environment. In fact, the Arizona desert has been the ultimate training ground for lunar exploration since the Apollo era, when the first astronauts to land on the moon first set foot there in 1967.
55 years later, the Artemis program brings new challenges to training: The Apollo missions landed on the moon’s near side, near the equator, while the Artemis program will see astronauts touch down on the moon’s largely unexplored south pole , look for water ice, which can sustain long-term settlements as drinking water, breathable air, and even (through electrolysis) rocket fuel. NASA emphasized that Arizona’s environment could be repurposed as a new lunar realm to prepare astronauts.
The test from NASA’s JETT3 (the third mission in the Joint Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Program Test Team series) ran from October 4 to October 9. Astronauts Drew Feustel and Zena Cardman perform a moonwalk simulation after dark, the light and shadow of the moon’s south pole are replicated by a spherical, multi-faceted “lighting car” system, the picture shows two astronauts staring at the ground in the dark, next to a hovering Spherical faceted lighting platform on pole.
In October 2022, NASA astronauts Zena Cardman and Drew Feustel examine an interesting geological outcrop while lunar lighting shadows are simulated by a lighting car system. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Stafford)
To simulate a moonwalk, Festel and Cadman donned spacesuit models while maneuvering to collect samples of regolith (lunar soil). Their journey was analysed by a scientific team and guided by a flight control team.
Desert RATS (Research and Technology Study), which ends on October 22, will put the pressurized vehicles to the test to see if they survive the planned Artemis 7, and if the early flight is successful, NASA proposes Carry out this mission in 2030. NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have already collaborated to prepare for a lunar mission between the two space agencies.
Astronauts and engineers from NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will live in one of these rovers, which act like space RVs and travel on the moon under the supervision of mission control.
The design, configuration, and driving (among other metrics) of the rovers will be evaluated, and they will go through a series of three mission simulations.
NASA emphasizes that simulated missions like JETT3 and Desert RATS help reduce risks to future human missions by assessing “the strengths, limitations, and effectiveness of planned human-robot exploration operations.” Arizona isn’t the only lunar simulation suitable for this type of simulation. NASA is also known to use underwater habitats and Antarctica among other locations.