KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – NASA officials joined the four-person crew of Artemis II on Tuesday to give an update on mission preparations at Kennedy Space Center.
Artemis II, scheduled for November 2024, will send the four astronauts into space on a 10-day mission.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, Associate Administrator Bob Cabana, and Jim Free Exploration Systems Development joined Artemis II astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, and Christina Koch, and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) Jeremy Hansen at the news conference.
In November, the Space Launch System rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center with the Orion capsule on top, sending Orion to orbit the moon before splashing down into the Pacific Ocean nearly a month later – marking the end of the successful Artemis I mission.
Artemis II and the Space Launch System rocket will send the four astronauts into orbit for a test run before a planned 2025 return to the moon with the Artemis III mission – and possible future missions to Mars.
“We have been spending a lot of time the last couple of years to really focus on what are the objectives that we need to prove on the moon,” Deputy Administrator Melroy said. “What exactly do we need to learn before we’re ready to go to Mars? And this is a crucial first step along that way”
Administrator Bill Nelson said the crew seeing their spacecraft was another major step in going back to the moon.
“Remember, we’re going back to the moon. It’s actually a different moon. We’re going to the South Pole,” Nelson said, referring to the Artemis III mission which is planned for 2025.
NASA Associate Administrator Jim Free said mission managers are still carefully examining the capsule’s heat shield after more than expected heat-deflecting material was lost from the shield on the Artemis I mission. Free said he expects a conclusion on the heat shield early next year.
“It’s this balance of pushing hard but maintaining the right philosophy of not pushing too hard, if that makes sense to you,” Free said.
Reid Wiseman, Artemis II commander, gave an update on their recent training, including studying spacecraft systems and visiting Lockheed facilities to meet engineers that are working on the vehicle’s software controls and displays.
“We’re fired up,” Wiseman said. “We get asked often what the measure of success for Artemis II is. And to the four of us sitting here, the measure of success for Artemis II is seeing our colleagues on the lunar surface, seeing our colleagues assembling gateway, and then seeing people that are following in our footsteps walking on Mars and coming back to planet Earth.”
All Artemis II hardware has been delivered to the Kennedy Space Center except the Core Stage, which will be delivered in November. The SLS rocket will be stacked with the Orion capsule beginning in February of next year.
“Artemis I was a great mission, we learned so much from it, the success was incredible,” Free said. “The only thing that carries over from that mission is the engineering. We’re reusing all new hardware. So that vigilance of putting the hardware together and calling out when things are not right or when there’s a concern is really important. Because those four folks next to me really depend on it.”
Bob Cabana, NASA Associate Administrator and former KSC Director, said he’s very concerned about the crew’s health and safety.
“I know these guys very well,” Cabana said. “And I want you to know as we move forward going to the moon, going to the South pole, safety is going to be paramount. It’s not without risk but we’re going to do our very best to understand all of the issues, the risks, to mitigate them as best we possibly can.”
Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen told News 6, despite the high visibility, life hasn’t changed for him much since being selected as an Artemis II astronaut.
“I’m still a husband and a father of three and I have all of that same life going on and I have the same friends and colleagues and work with the same people,” Hansen said. “I have been meeting an enormous number of people that I have such respect for. The other thing that has changed is there have been some tremendous honors bestowed upon us, some opportunities and unique events, discussions and conversations we’ve had in both of our countries that’s been a real honor.”
The astronauts, besides being test pilots and engineers, are also husbands and wives and parents.
“I took my daughter with me to an appearance event where I was signing autographs and she looks up at me and goes, ‘Dad, are you famous?’” Pilot Victor Glover said. “I said, ‘no babe all these people are in line because of this patch [pointing to his NASA patch], not this patch [pointing to his name badge].”
Commander Reid Wiseman said he trusts the countless men and women supporting the Artemis II mission.
“I mean we definitely worry about things,” Wiseman said. “We’re coming back for the moon at MACH 38+. And we’re on a 9.2 day journey with an environmental control support system that will be the first to execute that mission. This mission is not without risk for sure, and I worry about that, and I think everybody worries about that. I worry for the sake of my kids, my family, and the sake of the program. But then when we get out and see the people that are working this, I know for certain anything could go wrong but I know these teams have developed the spaceship with layers of redundancy and anywhere they possibly can they worked as hard as they can to reduce risk.”
Mission Specialist Christina Koch said the Artemis II mission is mostly about paving the way for Artemis III and beyond.
“Where it differs in a more complex way [than Artemis I] is that it’s a developmental mission,” Koch said. “So we’re going to be working with the teams to come up with what is that exact training plan, what are the hoops to jump through as a crew that is preparing to fly on Orion.”
On Monday, News 6 reporter Erik von Ancken announced that the Artemis launchpad upgrade is complete, including installing a new liquid hydrogen tank, an upgraded environmental control system and a new version of the old astronaut zipline escape system, known as the Emergency Egress Slidewire.
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