When it comes to preparing for demanding space missions, NASA puts selected astronauts through a raft of strenuous challenges that push their intellectual and physical abilities to the very limit.
So it comes as a surprise to learn that part of their training looks like a visit to a children’s playground.
A video (below) released by NASA on Monday shows astronauts Christina Koch, Victor Glover, Reid Wiseman, and Jeremy Hansen coming down a little slide while holding onto an orange inflatable.
So what’s going on?
Well, according to the space agency, they’re not there simply to have fun (though it does look like fun). They’re actually practicing how to exit NASA’s Orion spacecraft should there be some emergency situation in the seconds after splashing down at the end of next year’s Artemis II lunar mission.
Sliding into the holidays like…
Recently, the Artemis II crew practiced how to safely get themselves out of @NASA_Orion post-splashdown, should there be an emergency reason they need to leave the capsule prior to the recovery team arriving. pic.twitter.com/AZnV5zNRG7
— NASA's Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) December 18, 2023
It has to be said, the task of coming down the slide doesn’t look particularly difficult, and that’s because it’s not. But for NASA, safety is everything, and it wouldn’t be doing its job if it didn’t run through every single possibility associated with a mission. It’s important because exercises like this not only familiarize the crew with all aspects of an upcoming assignment but can also surface issues that no one had considered and which can then be addressed.
The astronauts’ training will continue until close to Artemis II’s launch, which is currently set for November 2024. In what will be the first close encounter with the moon by humans in five decades, the crew will perform a flyby of the lunar surface before returning home in an epic voyage that’s expected to last about 10 days.
NASA tested its new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft in a crewless flight to the moon at the end of last year, with the successful mission paving the way for Artemis II.
Following next year’s mission, Artemis III, which is currently set for 2025, will land the first humans on the moon since the final Apollo mission in 1972. The two lucky astronauts for that mission have yet to be selected, but you can be sure that they, too, will also be sent down a slide in preparation for their highly anticipated adventure.
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