NASA released a series of photos showing highly specialized training for astronauts on the Artemis mission, which will mark humanity’s return to the Moon.
The images were taken inside a giant water tank at NASA’s Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) in Houston, Texas. One of the photos shows two astronauts on a surface that resembles lunar soil.
NASA explained that the tank was adapted to mimic the conditions astronauts traveling to the South Pole will experience as part of the early stages of the Artemis mission.
The tank allows astronauts to experience the gravitational conditions of the Moon, while the lack of light reproduces the dark conditions of the lunar south pole, where sunlight appears just a few degrees above the horizon.
Kill the lights – we’re simulating a Moonwalk!
Divers at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory turned off the lights to simulate what an Artemis astronaut might experience at the lunar south pole – long, dark shadows. pic.twitter.com/naslhzzix7
— NASA’s Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) February 2, 2022
“Turn off the lights, we’re simulating a moonwalk!” NASA’s Johnson Space Center posted in a tweet. “Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory divers turned off the lights to simulate what an Artemis astronaut might experience at the lunar south pole: long, dark shadows.”
“This test involved turning off all the lights in the facility, hanging black curtains on the tank walls to minimize reflections, and using a powerful underwater cinematographic lamp to emulate lunar conditions.” NASA added in a statement..
The training, the agency detailed, involves astronauts becoming familiar with collecting lunar regolith using different tools, checking out a lunar lander and, of course, waving the US flag.
NASA has a particular interest in the Moon’s south pole, as it is known to contain water ice, a resource that is expected to be crucial for future manned missions to explore deep space.
“We know that the south polar region is ice-free and may be rich in other resources as we have observed, but otherwise it is a completely unexplored world,” NASA said.
The Artemis mission will consist of different phases; for Artemis I, scheduled for this year, an unmanned flight around the Moon is planned. Artemis II will make a similar manned flight, while Artemis III, scheduled for 2025, will have the goal of bringing the first woman and person of color to the lunar surface.