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Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
When NASA sends astronauts to the South Pole region of the Moon for the first time with its Artemis campaign, they will capture photos with a handheld camera to help advance scientific research and discovery for the benefit of all. NASA and Nikon Inc. recently signed a Space Act Agreement that outlines how they will work together to develop a handheld camera that can operate in the harsh lunar environment for use beginning with Artemis III.
Photographing the lunar South Pole region requires a modern camera with specialized capabilities to manage the extreme lighting conditions and temperatures unique to the area. The agreement enables NASA to have a space-rated camera ready for use on the lunar surface without needing to develop one from scratch.
Prior to the agreement, NASA performed initial testing on a standard Nikon Z 9 camera to determine the specifications a camera would need to operate on the lunar surface. With the agreement in place, teams at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, along with Nikon, have started working to implement the necessary adjustments and develop the HULC (Handheld Universal Lunar Camera), the agency’s next-generation camera astronauts will use on the Moon.
NASA astronauts Zena Cardman and Drew Feustel practice using an early design of the Handheld Universal Lunar Camera during the Joint Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Test Team (JETT) Field Test 3 in Arizona. NASA / Bill Stafford The resulting design consists of a modified Nikon Z 9 camera and Nikkor lenses, NASA’s thermal blanket, which will protect the camera from dust and extreme temperatures, and a custom grip with modified buttons developed by NASA engineers for easier handling by suited crewmembers wearing thick gloves during a moonwalk. In addition, the camera will incorporate the latest imagery technology and will have modified electrical components to minimize issues caused by radiation, ensuring the camera operates as intended on the Moon.
The camera will be the first mirrorless handheld camera used on the Moon, designed for capturing imagery in low-light environments. Prior to Artemis missions, the camera will be used at the International Space Station to demonstrate its capabilities.
For over 50 years, NASA has used a variety of cameras in space, including the cameras crewmembers currently use at the International Space Station to take photos of science experiments, day-to-day operations, and during spacewalks while they orbit about 250 miles above Earth.
NASA astronaut Jessica Wittner uses an early design of the Artemis lunar camera to take photos during planetary geological field training in Lanzarote, Spain.European Space Agency / A. Romero During the Apollo program, crewmembers took over 18,000 photos using modified large-format, handheld cameras. However, those cameras didn’t have viewfinders, so astronauts were trained to aim the camera from chest-level where it attached to the front of the spacesuit. In addition, Apollo crewmembers had to use separate cameras for photos and video. The new lunar camera will have a viewfinder and video capabilities to capture both still imagery and video on a single device.
To ensure camera performance on the lunar surface, NASA has begun thermal, vacuum, and radiation testing on the lunar camera to see how it behaves in a space-like environment. Suited NASA crewmembers have used the camera to capture imagery of geology tasks during simulated moonwalks in Arizona, and an international crew of astronauts from NASA, ESA (European Space Agency), and JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency) used it during geology training in Lanzarote, Spain.
NASA crewmembers will use the camera during the Joint Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Test Team Field Test #5, an upcoming analog mission in Arizona where teams will conduct simulated moonwalks in the desert to practice lunar operations.
Through NASA’s Artemis campaign, the agency will land the first woman, the first person of color, and its first international partner astronaut on the surface of the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a steppingstone to send the first astronauts to Mars.
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Credit: NASA/Kenny Allen NASA astronaut and Artemis II pilot Victor Glover is assisted by U.S. Navy personnel as he exits a mockup of the Orion spacecraft in the Pacific Ocean during training Feb. 25, while his crewmates look on. The Artemis II crew and a team from NASA and the Department of Defense are spending several days at sea to test the procedures and tools that will be used to help the crew to safety when they splash down in the ocean at the end of their 10-day, 685,000-mile journey around the Moon next year as part of the first crewed mission under NASA’s Artemis campaign.
On the day of the crew’s return to Earth, a Navy ship with specially trained personnel will await splashdown and then approach the Orion capsule to help extract the four astronauts. An inflatable raft, called the front porch, will provide a place for them to rest when they exit the capsule before they are then individually hoisted by helicopters and flown to the waiting ship.
Artemis II, launching atop the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will test the Orion spacecraft’s life support systems needed for future lunar missions.
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NASA/Isaac Watson Members of NASA’s Exploration Ground System’s Landing and Recovery team work to secure the Crew Module Test Article and align it on its stand inside the ship’s well deck in this image from Feb. 22, 2024. Underway Recovery Test 11 is the eleventh in a series of Artemis recovery tests, and the first time NASA and its partners put their Artemis II recovery procedures to the test with the astronauts.
These tests demonstrate the procedures and hardware needed to retrieve NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen after their approximately 10-day, 685,000-mile journey beyond the lunar far side and back.
Artemis II is the first crewed mission under NASA’s Artemis campaign and will test the agency’s Orion spacecraft life support systems needed for future lunar missions.
Image Credit: NASA/Isaac Watson
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Naval helicopters fly over a test version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft and personnel involved in training activities in the Pacific Ocean in July 2023, in preparation for Artemis II. Teams from NASA, including the Artemis II crew, and the Department of Defense are training this month off the coast of San Diego to prepare to recover the astronauts and Orion when they return to Earth. Credits: NASA/Kenny Allen Media are invited to speak with the four Artemis II astronauts on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at Naval Base San Diego in California. The crew will fly around the Moon next year as part of NASA’s Artemis campaign, marking the first astronauts to make the journey in more than 50 years.
NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense are conducting training with the crew in the Pacific Ocean to demonstrate the procedures and hardware needed to retrieve NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen after their approximately 10-day, 685,000-mile journey beyond the lunar far side and back.
The flight is the first crewed mission under NASA’s Artemis campaign and will test the agency’s Orion spacecraft life support systems needed for future lunar missions.
Attendees will be able to view hardware associated with the training, including a test version of Orion aboard the USS San Diego, and speak with other personnel from the agency and the Defense Department who are responsible for bringing the crew and the capsule to safety after the mission.
Media interested in attending must RSVP by 4 p.m. PST, Monday, Feb. 26, to Naval Base San Diego Public Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-556-7359. The exact time of the planned afternoon Feb. 28 event is subject to the conclusion of testing activities.
Under Artemis, NASA will establish the foundation for long-term scientific exploration at the Moon, land the first woman, first person of color, and its first international partner astronaut on the lunar surface, and prepare for human expeditions to Mars for the benefit of all.
For more about NASA’s Artemis II mission, visit:
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NASA’s Josh Whitehead has a passion for systems engineering. He now helps lead the team developing the rocket that will fly the first crew to deep space since the Saturn V. The campaign name of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the Moon, also has special meaning for Whitehead. “I have a twin sister, and Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo. I’m like, hey, I’m a twin! How cool is that?”NASA/Sam Lott Launching a rocket to the Moon takes perseverance and diligence. Josh Whitehead – a world-class engineer, race-winning long-distance runner, and father – knows that it also takes a good attitude.
“Positive energies are vital, particularly when working through challenges,” Whitehead says. “Challenges are opportunities to learn and grow. There’s always more than one way; always more than one solution.”
Whitehead’s job as the associate manager for the Stages Office of NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket supports design, development, certification, and operation of the 212-foot-tall SLS core stage. The massive core stage with two propellant tanks that collectively hold more than 733,000 gallons of super-cold propellant is one of the largest cryogenic propulsion rocket stages.
Whitehead joined the SLS Program, based at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, early on during the COVID-19 pandemic. Complicating matters further, in June 2020, Whitehead was injured in a hit-and-run cycling accident so devastating that it separated his right shoulder and broke his back in three places.
Amid his necessary rehabilitation and surgeries, Whitehead learned to type left-handed and one-handed. Through it all, he was working to further the agency’s Artemis campaign and preparing for the first launch of the SLS rocket for Artemis I.
Now back to running and having participated in a local charity race every year since 2007, the avid runner and engineer will tell you that, like a recovery, the road to launch is not a sprint. It’s a cadenced effort as teams across the country worked toward a common goal. During his rehabilitation and path to run again, Whitehead and his team finished assembling the first SLS core stage and the successful eight-part Green Run test campaign of the entire stage at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, prior to the Nov. 16, 2022, Artemis I launch.
Whitehead and his team are now manufacturing and processing core stages for multiple Artemis missions, including Artemis II in 2025, the first crewed flight under Artemis that will test the life-supporting systems in the Orion spacecraft ahead of future lunar missions.
Whitehead holds multiple advanced degrees in engineering from Auburn University and the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He got his start in the aerospace industry conducting subscale motor manufacturing tests for NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. From systems engineering supporting NASA’s Constellation Program and verifying and validating the solid rocket booster element in the SLS Program’s early days, to qualification activities and safety and mission assurance for the Artemis I flight, Whitehead has a passion for cross-discipline work.
“Being able to work systems engineering activities and multiple elements is all complementary. But the common thread is it’s about the people, the process, and the product,” he said.
SLS is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with the Orion spacecraft, advanced spacesuits and rovers, the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, and commercial human landing systems. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single launch.
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