See Artemis 2 moon astronauts train with US Navy for Orion splashdown (photos, video)

A safe moon mission requires getting in the water first.

The four astronauts of Artemis 2 recently visited the U.S. Navy team that will recover their spacecraft from the ocean next year, to meet with recovery operators and get set for training. The quartet are scheduled to fly around the moon no sooner than November 2024.

NASA and the Department of Defense also practiced recovery off the coast of San Diego this month using boats, helicopters and the USS John P. Murtha warship for sea operations. While Artemis 2 crew members were not at sea this time, that will be happening soon.

"The U.S. Navy has many unique capabilities that make it an ideal partner to support NASA," military officials stated alongside a video of recovery operations. The Navy highlighted its "amphibious capabilities", including sending helicopters, using 3D air search radar and providing high-quality medical care in remote sea environments.

Related: Artemis 2 moon astronauts visit splashdown zone for their Orion spacecraft (photo)

During recovery training on July 19, 2023, the Artemis 2 crew receives training on how the USS John P. Murtha is steered, using a helm control console. From left to right: L.t. j.g Thomas Lampognana, NASA astronaut (and U.S. Navy Capt.) Victor Glover, and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen (also a colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force.) (Image credit: U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication)

By coincidence, half of the Artemis 2 crew are Navy officers themselves. Both commander Reid Wiseman and pilot Victor Glover are Navy captains. 

Sailors with the U.S. Navy practice for Artemis 2 recovery operations on July 18, 2023 in operations done alongside NASA. Visible here are sailors with the helicopter sea combat squadron 23, the "Wildcards", waiting for an MH-60S Seahawk to send down a recovery basket. The astronauts of Artemis 2 will use a similar recovery basket after returning to Earth via the ocean. (Image credit: U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Samoluk)

The other two crew members are Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen (a colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force) and NASA astronaut Christina Koch, who in her last career overwintered in Antarctica several times for science.

The diverse crew includes a lot of firsts for humanity on a moon mission: Glover will be the first Black astronaut to leave low Earth orbit, while Koch is the first woman and Hansen the first non-American.

The Artemis 2 crew arrives at the the U.S. Navy’s Defense Distribution Depot Center in San Diego, California for a recovery operations briefing on July 19, 2023. Shown here are NASA astronaut and mission specialist Christina Koch (left), NASA astronaut and commander Reid Wiseman (far right) and Canadian Space Agency astronaut and mission specialist Jeremy Hansen (in background behind Koch.) While on site, the crew viewed an Orion spacecraft mockup called the Vehicle Advanced Demonstrator for Emergency Recovery (VADER.) (Image credit: U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communications)

For this first moon mission in 52 years, NASA is trying to get direct training advice from operational team members of Artemis 2. This practice not only brings in direct experience, but the astronauts can also team-build with their instructors ahead of hearing their voice on the line from a distance.

"We liked the fact that (trainers) can come in and say, 'I'm going to give you an introduction on the audio systems onboard the vehicle. And by the way, if you have a problem with them during flight, I'm going to be the one on the ground troubleshooting them,'" lead training officer Jacki Mahaffey recently told

A mockup of the NASA Artemis Orion spacecraft in the spotlight while on board the USS John P. Murtha in July 2023. NASA and the Department of Defense were practicing Artemis 2 recovery operations using this mockup, which is called a Crew Module Test Article. (Image credit: NASA/Frank Michaux)

Artemis 2 is the second mission of the Artemis program, but the first to carry humans. Artemis 1 flew around the moon with three mannequins and a suite of science in late 2022.

A close-up view of a mockup of the NASA Artemis Orion spacecraft, which is called the Crew Module Test Article, in July 2023. NASA and the Department of Defense were practicing Artemis 2 recovery operations on board the USS John P. Murtha. The three balloons visible at top are inflatable devices to tip the ship over in the correct, upright position if it lands upside-down in the water. (Image credit: NASA/Frank Michaux)

Next in the sequence will be Artemis 3, a landing mission now set for 2025 or 2026. But that timing will depend on whether SpaceX's Starship is ready, which will be used as NASA's human landing system for Artemis 3. An initial spaceflight test in April ended with Starship spinning out of control and being remotely detonated; a relaunch date for the system is not yet scheduled.

Canada is participating in Artemis 2 under the NASA-led Artemis Accords, a set of principles for peaceful includes 28 nations so far, and may also join Artemis 4 and 6. The accords not only cover moon exploration, but international peaceful exploration norms.

Canadarm3, a robotic arm for NASA's Gateway space station, is the major contribution from Canada. The country receives seats and science on crewed mission in exchange for its space robotics, which also have included Canadarm, Canadarm2 and the Dextre multi-armed robot. 

The U.S. Navy was a key partner of NASA for recovery operations in the early days of the space program, including the first crewed mission by humans — Freedom 7 — in 1961. Sailors also scooped up astronauts returning from moon missions, even fighting off sharks on multiple occasions in 1969 ahead of assisting the returning astronauts of Apollo 11.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: