Artemis III Moonwalks and Terrestrial Training

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas push a tool cart loaded with lunar tools through the San Francisco Volcanic Field north of Flagstaff, Arizona, as they practice moonwalking operations for Artemis III. Image credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel.

It’s just a coincidence, but Arizona is the location of both NASA training and Western University Planetary Surface Processes Field School this month.

Preparing for Artemis III

NASA is testing technology and astronauts are doing analog moonwalks in the San Francisco Volcanic Field north of Flagstaff, Arizona in preparation for future moonwalks including on the Artemis III mission, the first mission to the surface of the moon by astronauts since 1972.

NASA astronaut Andre Douglas collects soil samples during the first in a series of four simulated moonwalks in Arizona.
NASA/Josh Valcarcel
NASA astronaut Andre Douglas collects soil samples during the first in a series of four simulated moonwalks in Arizona. Image credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel.

The “crewmembers” from NASA participating in the exercise are astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas. According to NASA they are “wearing mockup spacesuit systems as they traverse through the desert, completing a variety of technology demonstrations, hardware checkouts and Artemis science-related operations.”

NASA added that “during the test, two integrated teams will work together as they practice end-to-end lunar operations. The field team consists of astronauts, NASA engineers, and field experts in the Arizona desert conducting the simulated moonwalks, while a team of flight controllers and scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston monitor and guide their activities.”

“Thest consists of four simulated moonwalks that follow operations planned for Artemis III and beyond, as well as six advanced technology runs. During the advanced runs, teams will demonstrate technology that may be used for future Artemis missions, such as display and navigation data stream capabilities in the form of a heads-up display using augmented reality or lighting beacons that could help guide crew back to the lander.”

Barbara Janoiko, director for the field test at Johnson said, “Field tests play a critical role in helping us test all of the systems, hardware, and technology we’ll need to conduct successful lunar operations during Artemis missions. Our engineering and science teams have worked together seamlessly to ensure we are prepared every step of the way for when astronauts step foot on the Moon again.”   

Preparing for the next-generation planetary scientists

Meanwhile Dr. Gordon Osinski of Western University is leading a group of graduate and undergraduate students on a field class for 13 days, May 5-17, that includes visiting various locations in Arizona and southern Utah.

A day of fieldwork

The course page describes the field trip as follows.

Field study of the geology and biology of various Moon/Mars analogue sites in North America. The main focus of the course will be an 13-day residential field experience examining various localities in northern Arizona and southern Utah, to take place in late April/early May.

This region of the southwestern United States is a world-renowned environment for comparative planetology; the Apollo astronauts were trained there in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Field stops will focus on meteorite impact cratering (e.g., Meteor Crater, AZ; Upheaval Dome crater, UT), volcanism (e.g., Sunset Crater volcanic field, AZ), and canyon and valley formation (e.g., Canyonlands National Park, UT).

Many of the locations to be visited are considered world-class terrestrial analogues for the Moon and Mars, such as Meteor Crater: the best-preserved meteorite impact crater on Earth. The goal of this course is to provide students with an interdisciplinary field studies experience with an emphasis on comparative planetology through the study of terrestrial analogues. Terrestrial analogues are places on Earth that approximate the geological and environmental conditions on the Moon, Mars and other planetary bodies, either at the present-day or in the past. This course will introduce students from a wide range of backgrounds to various aspects of planetary science, with an emphasis on planetary surface processes. The topics of astrobiology and planetary materials will also be integrated into this field program.

While the two groups won’t meet up on this trip, it’s possible that some of the Western University students could participate on future Artemis missions. And it should be noted that Dr. Osinski has in the past trained current Canadian astronauts for potential future missions to the moon’s surface.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and Executive Vice President, Content of SpaceNews. Boucher has 25+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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