NASA astronauts are not ready for deep space

The space agency has not yet developed a special training program for astronauts, does not have vital equipment such as new space suits, does not protect them from deadly levels of radiation, and is still adopting many technologies to lay the foundation for a permanent human existence. , According to NASA officials, former astronauts, experts on internal research and space travel.

“This time you will need astronauts, and they will actually come out and start living on the moon,” NASA executive Bill Nelson said in an interview. “We’m going to build habitats there, so you’ve need a new kind of astronaut.

Nelson said it was more ambitious than ever: “to sustain human life for a long time in a hostile environment.”

Still like NASA Artemis Project As the liftoff approaches, it becomes clear that the lofty goals of the project must be reduced by the extreme limitations of human reality, even as new rockets and spacecraft continue to be on schedule.

Lack of training

For one, it will take a special ability for men and women to cope with very different situations than the missions that NASA has been conducting for decades on the International Space Station or the now-defunct space shuttle in low Earth orbit.

NASA recently named its first new type of astronauts in four years – Nelson described as providing military pilots, scientists, an Olympian and “diversity”.

But it did not recruit staff for a one-month orbit around the moon in 2024 and the first two Artemis missions to the lunar surface in 2025.

There is no training program for moon missions.

NASA’s internal surveillance system has been raising concerns about the lack of a more sophisticated protocol to enhance a wide range of capabilities.

“The astronaut’s office is in the process of developing a framework for Artemis training, but this structure has not been formally chartered or any Artemis crews have been announced,” NASA’s Inspector General said in a recent report. “As such, specific task-focused training for the Artemis II mission – the first crew Artemis aircraft – has not yet begun.”

Eventually many tasks will require training – including Operation of different spacecraft and withstanding the physical and psychological harshness of the lunar environment.

We are going to have new training modules and new training protocols to accommodate lunar missions, ”said Philip McAllister, who oversees space missions at NASA. “Those missions can be short-term and long-term, and you can have two different spacecraft.”

That is, learning how to land on a moon that NASA did not make after the final Apollo mission in 1972.

“You can climb on Orion [spacecraft]But if you’ve going to land on the surface you have to go down in the lander, “McAllister said.” It will require some personal training. “

“Employees always have a role to play,” he added, while many aviation operations are automated.

Another task expected on lunar missions is to oversee the extraction of resources from the lunar surface.

“We’ve going to land at the moon’s south pole,” Nelson said.

But it also means hiring more trained moon astronomers.

“For example, geography has recently been identified as a specific set of professional skills required for Artemis missions to the moon and Mars,” said NASA’s IG. “There are currently four astronauts in the Corps with professional training in geography, two of whom have been with the Corps for more than 15 years.”

‘The Ernie Shackleton Type’

A popular analogy these days about who and what is needed for the Artemis effort is the three voyages to Antarctica led by the British explorer Ernest Shackleton in the early 20th century.

“This is the Ernie Shackleton type of people who are willing to explore for the betterment of humanity and go on a one-way trip without a guarantee of going home – pushing the possible limits,” said the retired Air Force Colonel. Jack Fisher spent four and a half months in space station in 2017.

The biggest obstacle may be human weakness – and the number of people who have not been known for more than a few days in deep space.

“The main difference between a space station and the moon or Mars is radiation,” said Terry Wirtz, a retired Air Force colonel and space station commander who piloted the space shuttle and orbited Russia’s Soyuz capsule. “The radiation environment is so bad in deep space. You don’t need to practice it. We know what it does. It gives you cancer. We don’t need to train to get cancer.

NASA still admits that it does not even have the right space suit for its lunar crew.

“They will need a new generation of space suits to operate capabilities beyond what was accomplished during the Apollo era,” James Free, NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Development of Research Systems, told Congress last month. “NASA has begun working with the commercial aerospace industry to acquire new space clothing.”

The space agency plans to send dozens of “robotic scientific studies and technical experiments” to the moon’s surface. Under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, it has contracted for seven lunar deliveries by 2024.

“Some of these trips may help us find water-like resources and extract existing resources,” Free said.

But the new era of space planning is not just about expanding the boundaries of science; It is about creating colonies far away from the earth. It will require not only robots but also humans.

Wirtz, who was part of an eight-man crew in 2019, said the development of techniques that would help astronauts survive in deep space – including ensuring there is enough oxygen to breathe – would break the world record for orbiting the Earth. Via both poles.

“Equipment [that will be used on the Artemis missions] We have to train at the space station, ”he said. “You can get five years of operational experience with a carbon dioxide engine or fitness equipment. The fitness equipment we have at the space station is not going to go to the moon or Mars because it’s huge.

Depending on how long the astronauts have to live on the moon, another wild card is a possible psychological number.

A recent study evaluated ways to overcome remote isolation by studying the behavior of two “space architects” who participated in a 61-day voyage in northern Greenland. நிலா. “

It found that new strategies were needed to ensure that social interaction, physical activity, and specific daily tasks and activities were well defined to minimize the effects of extended human isolation and resignation feelings.

By all accounts, NASA still has a lot of work to do to figure out what its research mission needs.

“When we went to the moon during the Apollo program, every moment on the surface was planned – whether it was collecting rocks for a specific time or eating at a specific time – but it was a very short task,” Jack Stuster said. A cultural anthropologist and expert in human factors.

He completed his exploration for the Johnson Space Center in 2019, outlining the tasks and social and physical capabilities needed for long-distance travel into deep space – including a gateway planned by NASA, a small lunar orbit space station.

“It’s absurd that you have serious plans – people expect this to happen within a decade – regardless of what people do during the trip, be it to the moon or to Mars,” Stuster said in an interview.

‘A Different Qualities’

Others insist that the space agency underestimates what it takes to achieve more than just returning to the moon for a few days, as in the Apollo era. (The longest stay on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission was: 74 hours, 59 minutes and 38 seconds.)

“Colonizing the ocean floor is really easy, and we’re not talking about doing that,” said Donald Goldsmith, an astronomer and co-author of “Astronauts’ Conclusion: Why Robots Are the Future of Exploration.”

He said there was little doubt that NASA could send astronauts back to the lunar surface. But it did not fully estimate the “step from a few astronauts on the moon to a real colony on the moon.”

“A couple similar to the Apollo Lander could live there for a while and get supplies including food and fuel,” he said. “But how do you get out of it? You have to have regular stuff. It’s going to take a lot of tons.

Wirtz said he was particularly concerned about what this meant for the well-being of moon explorers.

“We do not know what the long-term consequences of space travel will be because they do not provide health care for retired astronauts,” he said. “We do not know if they have frequent fractures or frequent colds. Or if they have frequent Alzheimer’s or frequent cancers. ”

“This would be good data before sending comrades to the moon or Mars,” he added. The Russians have the data. NASA does not.

The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, focuses on human space travel beyond Earth’s low orbit, amid NASA’s comprehensive study of biology and physics. Its recommendations did not come until 2023, shortly before Artemis’ mission began to explode in its lunar orbit.

But who are the adventurers who will pursue NASA’s big moon targets after that? Fischer recalled a recent meeting of astronauts sitting next to Dylan Taylor, entrepreneur and CEO of Voyager Space, the 606th man to fly into space on the Blue Origin’s New Shepherd rocket recently.

“I didn’t know they would be NASA,” Fischer said, predicting that private astronauts might be the next deep space pioneer. “I do not know what the future holds for NASA. But they are going [need] Different qualities. “

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