Thursday, July 18, 2024

NASA astronauts perform ‘moonwalk’ in Arizona desert to prepare for Artemis III lunar mission | Trending

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas turned the Arizona desert in the United States into their practice ground to perform four “moonwalk simulations ahead of the Artemis III mission.

Artemis III mission

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas perform a moonwalk on the San Francisco Volcanic Field north of Arizona.(NASA)

The astronauts of the premier space agency performed the “moonwalk” to prepare for Artemis III, the first human exploration mission of the lunar South Pole region. The 30-day mission will allow the astronauts to travel to the lunar orbit, where two crew members will descend to the surface near the South Pole.

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Set to launch in September 2026, NASA is yet to select the two astronauts for the mission. To prepare for the significant milestone, NASA astronauts Rubins and Douglas trudged through northern Arizona’s San Francisco Volcanic Field and performed a “moonwalk” simulation over a week in May.

Arizona desert’s moon-like geology

The scientists chose Arizona’s desert as their practice ground owing to its moon-like geological formation, shaped by millions of years of volcanic eruptions. A region called Marius Hills on Earth’s moon geologically resembles the Arizona volcanic field. Like the volcanic field, Maurius Hills were also shaped by ancient volcanic eruptions, as per NASA.

According to the US space agency, Earth-based simulations are essential to prepare the astronauts to travel to space. The “moonwalk” simulation allows the scientists to make geological observation from afar through descriptions from astronauts.

After the “moonwalk”, the astronauts experimented with various technologies including augmented reality and lighting beacons that could be used on the mission.

According to NASA, the “moonwalk” had to end early due to strong winds in the desert. Following the practice, Earth and planetary scientists and crew gathered at NASA Johnson to assess simulation through a video.

After descending to the lunar surface, the astronauts will walk on the moon wearing Axiom Space suits, that offer an increased range of motion and flexibility to explore the lunar landscape. During the actual moonwalk, the astronauts are expected to take pictures and video, survey geology and collect samples.

The Artemis III mission will mark humanity’s first return to the lunar surface in more than 50 years. The astronauts and the crew will ride to and from Earth onboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft.

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