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The Crew of Artemis II Rehearses Boarding

Published on 21 September 2023

On September 20 in Florida, Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch and Jeremy Hansen rehearsed the boarding procedure for the Artemis mission II around the Moon. Take-off is planned for the end of 2024.

The Crew of Artemis II Rehearses Boarding

The Artemis programme for returning to and onto the Moon continues its preparations. After the success of the Artemis I automatic flight at the end of 2022, the next big step will be Artemis II. It will again be a mission around our natural satellite (therefore no landing), but this time the Orion capsule will accommodate four astronauts: Commander Reid Wiseman with Victor Glover and Christina Koch from NASA, and Jeremy Hansen from the Canadian Space Agency.

A Rehearsal Without the SLS

As surprising as it may seem, on September 20, 2023 there was no SLS (Space Launch System) launcher on the LC-39B launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. And therefore no Orion capsule to install on board either!
The absence of NASA’s impressive 98-metre lunar launch vehicle, however, does not prevent one of the major rehearsals necessary for Artemis II from being carried out, namely the Launch Day Demonstration. During this, the crew followed the same steps as on the day of its flight to the Moon, except entering the Orion capsule.
Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch and Jeremy Hansen therefore donned test versions of the intra-vehicular suits (intended to protect them in the event of decompression of their vessel) within the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkouts Building of the American agency’s Florida centre.

On 20 September, as part of a rehearsal, the four Artemis II astronauts exit the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkouts Building at the Kennedy Space Center.

In front of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkouts Building, the astronauts boarded electric vehicles to reach the launchpad.

This five-storey building (formerly the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building) has been in use since the Gemini program in the 1960s. It was also used for Apollo, the Shuttles and more recently SpaceX ‘s Crew Dragon flights.
The four from Artemis II then took, from just outside this historic building, electric vehicles from the American firm Canoo responsible for transporting them to the launchpad.

Called CTVs (for Crew Transportation Vehicles), these zero-emission cars travelled almost 15 km, depositing the astronauts at the foot of the launch tower on launchpad 39-B. The 116 m high metal structure normally accompanies the SLS. This tower is also a complex piece of machinery that houses enough fuel to fill the launcher’s tanks while allowing astronauts to access the Orion capsule.

Perched more than 80 m high

Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch and Jeremy Hansen took the elevator as if for a launch, then walked along the access walkway more than 80 m above the ground before arriving in the White Room. This “clean room,” the antechamber of their ship, is where a specialist team from NASA will help the astronauts in their final preparations and then to take up their seats in the capsule.
On September 20, the Launch Day Demonstration obviously stopped at the White Room stage (the header photo of this article was taken in that room). NASA explained that “successful completion of this test ensures that Kennedy ‘s crew and ground systems teams are prepared and understand the schedule of events for the day of launch.” The installation procedures on board Orion can in fact be rehearsed elsewhere on a replica of the capsule. 

From left to right: Victor Glover, Jeremy Hansen, Christina Koch and Reid Wiseman on the access bridge, just outside the White Room.

The view is quite impressive at more than 80 m high on the launch tower. On the left, the footbridge and at the end the White Room can be seen. 

The full-scale test on September 20 is the first of seven key tests of ground systems identified by the American agency before Artemis II. One of them will, for example, consist of checking the equipment allowing the evacuation of astronauts and personnel if necessary. Currently scheduled for November 2024, Artemis II will see the first woman (Christina Koch), the first person of colour (Victor Glover) and the first Canadian (Jeremy Hansen) in orbit around the Moon. The Orion capsule which will accommodate this crew, commanded by Reid Wiseman, will make the trip thanks to the European Service Module (ESM) provided by the European Space Agency (ESA).
While Artemis is a program initiated by NASA, it in fact relies on international cooperation from the European Space Agency, that of Japan (JAXA) and that of Canada (CSA).

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