NASA astronauts training in Flagstaff ahead of Artemis mission

As the nation prepares for the Artemis 1 launch that will pave the way for Americans to return to the Moon, the crew is training in Flagstaff, where a field is deemed to be perfect in recreating the rocky terrain that makes up the Moon's surface.

Crew members are at NASA's base camp, where they are training and preparing for astronauts to spend weeks on the lunar surface. The team in Flagstaff is working on having the astronauts spending three days inside a rover. The astronauts will sleep and eat in the rover, while figuring out how to function inside, and how they can take the rover to the Moon.

"What we learn here by performing geology is similar to what we'll do on the Moon and conduct geologic tests," said Dr. Barbara Janoiko with NASA Desert Research and Technology Studies. "Figuring out which samples to collect, how to collect and keep them pristine. We also come back to Flagstaff because of the long-standing history here, dating all the way back to the Apollo mission."

The history Dr. Janoiko mentioned involves those who trained for the Apollo mission in Flagstaff: Every single astronaut that has stepped foot on the Moon has trained in Flagstaff.

The Artemis mission will put the first woman on the moon, as well as the first person of color on the Moon.

Crew members testing pressurized moon rover in Flagstaff

In Flagstaff, scientists are trying to figure out how astronauts can explore miles and miles of the lunar surface. Currently, they are building and testing a pressurized Moon rover.

"The team is really excited to be able to contribute to Artemis in a meaningful way," said Dr. Janoiko.

The Research and Technology Studies team, also called Desert Rats, are doing a lot of studying.

"We want to learn more about the Moon," said Dr. Janoiko, who is leading the team.

Dr. Janoiko talked about training, and how even the time of day the training is done is important.

"We have a portable sun that we use to mimic the long shadows and lights on the rover,s and lights on the backpacks that we use to simulate spacesuits," said Dr. Janoiko.

Austin Roberts, a Project Engineer at Johnson Space Center, said they are combining the past and present. He showed off equipment that will help collect rock samples in the constraints of a space suit. That piece of equipment, according to Roberts, is almost a complete replica of an Apollo design.

As for the pressurized Moon rover, Dr. Janoiko said teams call the rover home.

"They lived and worked from inside the rover and outside the rover. Sleeping, eating, using the toilet, managing all of the stowage inside the rover and where and how everything goes," said Dr. Janoiko.

While it is tight space for two co-workers inside the rover, the rewards would be historic achievements.

Meanwhile, Flagstaff's mayor, Paul Deasy, said it is important that NASA came back to the area to train for the future.

"Seeing that legacy continue with the Artemis missions is just – I mean, our whole communtiy has been so excited about whats going on at the training grounds," said Deasy.

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