Home LATEST NEWS In Houston, NASA on its way to return to the Moon

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

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The day before take-off, I won’t be able to sleep much, that’s for surehe told AFP, in front of the dozens of screens in the flight control room 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.

An astronaut is greeted by a paratrooper after landing.

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

Photo: Getty Images/NASA

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

For this first 42-day test mission, called Artemis 1, around ten people will be in the hall of the famousMission Control Center“,”text”:”Mission Control Center”}}’>Mission Control Centermodernized for the occasion.

The teams have been rehearsing the flight plan for three years.

It’s all completely new. A brand new rocket, a brand new ship, a brand new control center. »

A quote from Brian Perry, who will be at the console, responsible for the trajectory just after launch

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

Astronauts must train in this pool for their mission to the Moon.

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

Photo: afp / afp via getty images / MARK FELIX

Beyond the control room, the entire Johnson Space Center in Houston has been set to 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 created at the bottom of the basin, with gigantic models of rocks, manufactured 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. »

A quote from Lisa Shore, Deputy Chief of the Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL)

In water, astronauts can experience a sensation 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, with the four-second time lag they will face on the Moon.

Six astronauts have already trained there, and six more are to follow by the end of September, donning NASA’s new lunar suits for the first time.

The heyday of this building was when the shuttles were still flying and the space station was being built, explained John Haas, head of the NBL. At the time, 400 combination trainings were conducted per year, compared to around 150 today. But the Artémis program brings new momentum.

At the time of AFP’s visit, engineers and divers were evaluating how to push a trolley on the Moon.

Artistic representation of the Orion spacecraft around the Moon.

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

Photo: NASA

Run a marathon on your hands

Water workouts can last up to six hours. It’s like running a marathon twice, but on your handstold AFP Victor Glover, a NASA astronaut who returned from six months in space last year.

Today, he works in a building entirely intended for simulators. Its role is to help check procedures and equipmentso that when those who will go to the Moon (of which Mr. Glover could be one) are finally chosen, they can be intensively prepared and quickly ready to go.

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.

A new golden age

They will also have to familiarize themselves with 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 docking maneuver at 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-size rehearsals.

The astronauts do a lot of emergency evacuation training hereshows AFP Debbie Korth, deputy manager of the Orion project, on which she has been working for more than ten years.

Throughout the space center, people are excited, she assures. For NASA, sure, I believe it’s a new golden age who starts.

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