NASA Astronauts Test Moon Elevator for 2025 Artemis III Mission

Artemis III Mission

NASA continues extensive preparations across multiple fronts for the much-anticipated Artemis III mission, which aims to finally land the first woman and person of color on the lunar surface for the first time since the last human moon landing in 1972. Targeted for launch in 2025, the ambitious moon mission still has several key hurdles to cross over the next two years before this historic return to deep space exploration can become a reality. 

The Artemis III astronauts will ride to lunar orbit inside NASA’s Orion spacecraft, serving as the command module for the mission. They will then transfer into SpaceX’s Starship Human Landing System (HLS) for the actual descent from orbit to the lunar surface below. This Starship HLS craft is a modified version of the Starship vehicle currently in development, customized specifically for ferrying human crews to and from the Moon. A unique elevator concept within the Starship will lower crew members from the habitable upper area down to the lunar terrain through an opening in the bottom.

In recent testing, NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Doug Wheelock entered a full-scale mock-up of this elevator concept to assess crew interfaces, mobility limitations in spacesuits, and functionality of mechanical assemblies. The mock-up featured realistic baskets, rail systems, and other components to aid the astronauts in evaluating the elevator design. Their firsthand input will help perfect development of this vital system for safely transporting Artemis III crew members between the Starship craft and the lunar surface along their historic mission.

Leading up to the ambitious Artemis III surface expedition, four trailblazing astronauts will perform an important test flight around the Moon in late 2024. This will mark the debut crewed journey for the Orion spacecraft as NASA progresses toward restoring human presence on Earth’s lone natural satellite. Intense training for this precursor trip is already underway at space centers around the country as NASA stewards its steady return to deep space exploration.

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