Key Takeaways:

  1. NASA astronauts conduct lunar simulations at a rock yard in Houston to prepare for the Artemis 3 mission, set for 2025 or 2026.
  2. Photos released by Jessica Meir showcase the moon-like landscape, created using specialized lighting and walls at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
  3. These training exercises aim to acclimate astronauts to the weight and feel of spacesuits crucial for lunar missions.
  4. The Joint EVA Test Team (JETT) in Flagstaff, Arizona, replicates lunar conditions for further astronaut training.
  5. NASA’s Artemis program emphasizes diversity, with plans to include women, people of color, and international astronauts on lunar excursions.
Jessica Meir (right) and a partner on a simulated moon landscape at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. (Image credit: Jessica Meir/NASA/X)

In a striking series of images, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir recently shared glimpses of spacesuit training conducted in an environment that eerily resembles the lunar surface.

These photos, released on social media, reveal Meir and an unidentified partner on what appears to be the moon. However, this rugged terrain is a meticulously designed rock yard at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The simulation employs specialized lighting and dark walls to recreate the challenging conditions of the lunar environment.

During these exercises, Meir and her colleague donned partially sealed spacesuits, providing them with a sense of the bulk and weight of the actual gear they’ll wear on the moon. This hands-on experience is invaluable for their participation in NASA’s Artemis program, which is poised to achieve a historic milestone with the Artemis 3 mission. Slated for no earlier than 2025 or 2026, this mission will mark the first human lunar landing since the iconic Apollo 17 in 1972.

The Johnson Space Center’s rock yard is just one facet of NASA’s multifaceted approach to lunar training. Another crucial endeavor is the Joint EVA Test Team (JETT) exercise held annually in Flagstaff, Arizona. This event immerses astronauts in a desert landscape illuminated by lamps, closely mimicking the intense sunlight conditions on the moon. “EVA,” which stands for “extravehicular activity,” refers to spacewalks, a critical aspect of lunar missions.

Jessica Meir (right) and a partner on a simulated moon landscape at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. (Image credit: Jessica Meir/NASA/X)

While this year’s JETT exercise has been postponed until 2024, last year’s edition saw active participation from NASA astronauts Zena Cardman and Drew Feustel. The Arizona landscape mirrors lunar characteristics, offering astronauts exposure to challenging terrain, intriguing geology, and limited communication infrastructure.

While the Artemis 3 crew remains unnamed, Artemis 2, a circumlunar mission, has four astronauts lined up for an expedition in late 2024. This crew includes NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen. Additionally, Artemis 1, an uncrewed mission, successfully orbited the moon in late 2022.

Emphasizing inclusivity, NASA is committed to involving women, individuals of diverse ethnicities, and international astronauts in the Artemis program. Victor Glover is poised to become the first Black person to venture beyond low Earth orbit, while Christina Koch will make history as the first woman to do so.

Jeremy Hansen will break ground as the first non-American participant. This commitment to diversity extends to other space ventures, exemplified by Jessica Meir’s participation in the inaugural all-woman spacewalk alongside Christina Koch, who also spent nearly a year aboard the International Space Station.

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