In Houston, NASA on its way to return to the Moon

&In Houston, NASA on its way to returning to the Moon

The Johnson Space Centers Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas.

“I've worked here for 37 years, and it's been the most thrilling thing I've ever been involved in. Rick LaBrode is NASA flight director, and at the end of the month, he will be responsible for a historic space mission: the first of the program to mark the return of the Americans to the Moon.

The day before takeoff, I'm not going to be able to sleep much, that's for sure, he confides to AFP, in front of the dozens of ;flight control room screens in Houston, Texas.

For the first time since the last Apollo mission in 1972, a rocket – the most powerful in the world – will propel a habitable capsule into orbit around the Moon, before returning to Earth.

NASA astronaut Eugene Cernan, commander of the Apollo 17 lunar mission, is welcomed to Earth by a parachutist from the US Navy, after landing in the Pacific Ocean on December 19, 1972.

As early as 2024, astronauts will board to make the same journey, and the following year (at the earliest), they will set foot on the Moon again.

For this first 42-day test mission, called Artemis 1, a dozen people will be in the hall of the famous Mission Control Center at all times, modernized for the occasion.

Teams have been rehearsing the flight plan for three years.

“This is all completely new. A brand new rocket, a brand new ship, a brand new control center. »

— Brian Perry, who will be at the console responsible for trajectory right after launch

I can tell you that my heart will go bam bam, bam bam, but I will make sure to stay focused, he told AFP, patting his chest, he who has participated in many space shuttle flights.

Divers work during a training exercise at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston.

Beyond the control room, the entire Johnson Space Center in Houston has gone on Moon time.

In the middle of the huge pool more than 12 meters deep where the astronauts train, a black curtain has been drawn. On one side is still the submerged replica of the International Space Station.

On the other, a lunar environment is gradually being created at the bottom of the basin, with gigantic rock models, made by a company specializing in aquarium decorations.

“We started putting sand on the bottom of the pool only a few months ago. The big rocks arrived two weeks ago. Everything is still in development.

— Lisa Shore, Deputy Chief of the Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL)

In water, astronauts can experience a feeling close to weightlessness . For lunar training, they are equipped to feel only one sixth of their weight.

From a room above the pool, they are guided remotely, through the four-second time lag they will face on the Moon.

Six astronauts have been there already trained, with six more to follow by the end of September, donning NASA's new moonsuits for the first time.

The heyday of this building was when the shuttles were still flying and the space station was being built, said NBL chief John Haas. At the time, 400 suit trainings were conducted per year, compared to around 150 today. But the Artemis program is bringing new momentum.

At the time of AFP's visit, engineers and divers were evaluating how to push a trolley on the Moon.< /p>

The Orion spacecraft will use the gravitational forces of Earth and the Moon to propel itself during the Artemis missions.

The Water workouts can last up to six hours. It's like running a marathon, twice, but on your hands, told AFP Victor Glover, a NASA astronaut who returned last year from six months in space.< /p>

Today, he works in a building entirely dedicated to simulators. His role is to help check procedures and equipment, so that when those who will go to the Moon (which Mr. Glover could be part of) are finally chosen, they can be intensively prepared and quickly ready. from.

Thanks to virtual reality headsets, they will be able to get used to walking in the difficult light conditions of the South Pole of the Moon, where the Artemis missions will land. There, the Sun rises very little above the horizon, constantly casting long, very black shadows.

They will also need to familiarize themselves with the new ships and their software, such as the Orion capsule. In one of the simulators, seated in the commander's seat, he performs the delicate maneuver of docking with the future lunar space station, Gateway.

Elsewhere, a replica of the capsule, with a volume of 9 cubic meters for four passengers, is used for full-scale rehearsals.

Astronauts do a lot of training x27;emergency evacuation here, shows AFP Debbie Korth, deputy manager of the Orion project, on which she has worked for more than ten years.

In all the space center, people are overexcited, she assures. For NASA, certainly, I believe a new golden age is beginning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous post Flight MH17 crash: Dutch court to deliver verdict on November 17
Next post Kenya: Electoral Commission declares William Ruto winner of presidential election