Artemis 2 astronauts are already preparing to return to Earth

Their journey around the moon is only planned for September 2025, but the four astronauts of the Artemis 2 mission are already preparing to return, and for eight days they trained at sea with the US Navy off the coast of California.

“It's crazy, it only happens in movies and we live it everyday”Commander Reed Wiseman said Wednesday in his electric blue astronaut military uniform at Naval Base San Diego.

The night before, the quartet had been on a small inflatable boat in the Pacific.

Aboard a massive amphibious assault ship, hundreds of US military sailors, divers and pilots had to coordinate their efforts to rescue and airlift the space explorers. A dress rehearsal is essential to accomplishing what will be the final stage of a historical mission.

Weissman and his three colleagues would become the first men to approach the moon since the end of the Apollo program 50 years earlier.

If all goes well, the Orion capsule will fly by Earth's satellite during a ten-day journey before returning to the ocean.

Destination Tuesday

How to weather a potential storm? What procedure should be initiated if one of the astronauts is injured? What can be done to attract the empty capsule to the ship's hold?

A large black cone nicknamed “Darth Vader” for its resemblance to the “Star Wars” villain's helmet: thanks to a large black cone called “Orion”.

“We're constantly thinking about what we're going to do,” Lily Villarreal, the NASA official overseeing the return phase of the mission, explained to AFP. “We have to prepare for all scenarios.”

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With the Artemis project, humanity returns to the moon, unable to reach it, but “stay” Forever, remember.

While Artemis 2 is limited to flybys of the Moon, the program's third mission, scheduled for late 2026, should take humans to the star instead.

Its mission is to send missions lasting several weeks, then establish a base on the surface and a space station in orbit around the Moon, capable of acting as a relay for the capture of Mars. Because now it's the Red Planet that NASA is interested in.

“Our Earth has limited resources,” stresses Villarreal. “That's why we have to figure out what we can do for the good of humanity.”

“lead the way”

But recapturing the moon goes beyond the simple ambition of turning it into a springboard to faraway space.

Over the years, private companies dreamed of sending tourists, and new powers like India, Japan, and China managed to land on the moon.

Beijing aims to send humans to the moon by 2030, putting pressure on NASA to avoid piling up delays.

In this context, “the question is not really why we're going there, but whether or not we're going to be in the lead,” assesses Christina Koch, another Artemis 2 astronaut.

Koch will be the first woman ever to go into space, and the first black astronaut to walk on the moon, along with Canadians Jeremy Hansen and Victor Glover.

With its new project, NASA aims to have a woman and a black man walk on the moon for the first time.

The Apollo program had already sent 24 men, all white, to the moon between 1969 and 1972. Only eight are still alive, and as in the US Navy, some veterans have taken their successors under their wing.

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According to Wiseman, Thomas Stafford, who was part of Apollo 10, invited the Artemis 2 team to lunch.

“He immediately asked us: (…) 'What do you do if the computers fail?' Have you thought about how your routes work?''said the astronaut. “He immediately acted like a father who wanted to make sure his kids came out safe and sound.”

Eden Hayes

"Wannabe gamer. Subtly charming beer buff. General pop culture trailblazer. Incurable thinker. Certified analyst."

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