Astronauts get first look at the spacecraft that will fly them around the moon

by Andrew Wright

The group of four astronauts designated to orbit the moon next year were recently given their initial viewing of the spacecraft, and NASA cautioned on Tuesday that there might be additional delays.

The astronauts glimpsed their incomplete Orion capsule, marked with red “Remove Before Flight” labels, and were noticeably awed by what they saw.

Christina Koch, one of the astronauts, conveyed her excitement to journalists, stating that nothing else quite resembled the spacecraft and that the sight of it sent shivers down her spine.

During their late Monday and Tuesday visit to Kennedy Space Center, the U.S.-Canadian crew examined the capsule. NASA’s intention is to launch the four astronauts on a mission to the moon and back in the latter part of the next year.

However, scrutiny of the capsule’s heat shield could push back this inaugural manned lunar journey in over 50 years. An uncrewed test flight last year resulted in unanticipated charring and loss of material from the heat shield, a crucial component designed to safeguard the capsule from intense reentry heat.

Challenges are also faced by the following mission in the Artemis program, aimed at landing on the moon. This could shift from late 2025 to 2026, mainly due to concerns about SpaceX’s Starship, the rocket responsible for transporting two NASA astronauts to the lunar south pole.

NASA has expressed apprehension over SpaceX’s ability to accomplish everything on schedule after an explosion occurred during Starship’s single test flight so far. The space agency is holding back on committing to a lunar landing using Starship until SpaceX performs multiple orbital flights, establishes a refueling depot around Earth, and successfully completes a moon-landing dress rehearsal.

Jim Free, NASA’s exploration systems development chief, expressed hope for a clearer understanding of the situation by this fall.

Astronaut Victor Glover also emphasized the extensive amount of work ahead.

Despite these lingering concerns, the atmosphere at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building was optimistic on Tuesday. The astronauts, who were chosen for the mission amid much celebration last spring, reflected on the significance of the upcoming moon landing.

The mission’s crew commander, Reid Wiseman, expressed that it’s the subsequent moon landing that truly encapsulates the dream for them.

In preparation for an acoustic test, more than 200 rock concert speakers were placed around the capsule. NASA intends to test the capsule’s resilience by exposing it to up to 143 decibels of noise, simulating the roaring sounds of a launch.

Pointing to the capsule, Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen affirmed, “That’s real … It’s not a dream.”

The report concluded with a note that the Big Big News Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group, with the AP being solely accountable for all the content.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about astronauts

When are the four astronauts scheduled to fly around the moon?

The astronauts are scheduled to fly around the moon in the latter part of next year, though NASA has warned that there might be additional delays.

What concerns arose from last year’s uncrewed test flight of the Orion capsule?

Last year’s uncrewed test flight resulted in unexpected charring and loss of material from the heat shield at the bottom of the capsule, which might delay the first lunar trip by astronauts in more than half a century.

What are the hurdles facing the next mission of the Artemis program?

The main hurdle facing the next mission of the Artemis program, a moon landing, is SpaceX’s Starship. Concerns about its readiness and a potential delay from late 2025 to 2026 are being assessed.

What are the specific requirements NASA has set for SpaceX’s Starship before committing to a moon landing?

NASA will not commit to a moon landing using Starship until SpaceX conducts multiple Starship orbital flights, sets up a refueling depot around Earth, and completes a moon-landing dress rehearsal.

How did the astronauts react to their first look at the Orion capsule?

The astronauts were noticeably impressed and awed by their first look at the unfinished Orion capsule. Astronaut Christina Koch described the experience as giving her shivers.

What tests are planned for the capsule later this week?

NASA planned to conduct an acoustic test on the capsule, blasting it with up to 143 decibels of noise to simulate the thunderous sounds of liftoff and test how well the capsule’s components hold up.

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LunarDreamer August 9, 2023 - 2:34 am

This is the stuff of dreams. I remember when I saw Neil Armstrong step on the moon. This is our time to carry the dream. Go NASA! Go astronauts!

Tech_Guru1985 August 9, 2023 - 7:12 am

that acoustic test sounds intense! 143 decibels, can you imagine? Wonder how they prepare for such things, testing all the components like that.

SpaceFanatic21 August 9, 2023 - 8:02 am

SpaceX and starship, always on the edge. not sure if they can pull it off in time? Either way, looking forward to the next chapter of space exploration.

Amanda_LoveScience August 9, 2023 - 1:57 pm

I’ve been following Christina Koch’s career, and her excitement gives me shivers too! The whole Artemis program is so inspiring for young girls.

John_Smith77 August 9, 2023 - 2:09 pm

Can’t belive the astronauts got to see their capsule! its really happening. Exciting times ahead for space travel, just hope those delays don’t ruin it.


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