In a nutshell: NASA recently tested a scale mockup of an elevator designed to help astronauts get from the lunar lander to the surface of the Moon. The Starship landing system will be used to transport two astronauts from the Orion spacecraft in orbit around the Moon to its surface. The landing module can support two explorers for up to one week, and can safely transport them back to Orion when their work is done.
As NASA highlighted, the habitable area in Starship is located near the top of the lander, so they need an effective way to get to ground level that doesn’t involve taking a leap of faith.
The mockup, built at SpaceX’s facility in Hawthorne, California, allowed the astronauts to get a feel for what the finalized hardware will be like, complete with functioning mechanical assemblies and interfaces. NASA astronauts even wore spacesuits during the test to better simulate mobility constraints they’ll experience in space.
For Artemis III, NASA went with a new suit being developed by Axiom Space. Luxury fashion giant Prada is also helping out with the design.
The astronauts were also able to provide valuable feedback from a crew perspective, such as how the gate latches and ramp deployment system works when suited up. Valuable information regarding available cargo space was also gleaned from the test – all of which could be used to make changes to the design before it is finalized or to improve future revisions.
With Artemis III, NASA aims to land Americans on the surface of the Moon for the first time in over 50 years. Should everything go according to plan, NASA hopes to put boots back on the Moon sometime before the end of 2025. The week-long mission could include up to four moonwalks, at which time a variety of testing will be performed.
Artemis IV, the fourth planned mission, will be the first to dock with the Lunar Gateway, a space station being built in orbit around the Moon.
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