Artemis moon astronauts will get a plush ride to the launch pad before leaving Earth.
NASA showed off the glitzy interior of its new fleet of astronaut cars from Canoo Technologies Inc., which are assigned to the Artemis program. The first astronaut crew, Artemis 2, will use the all-electric vehicles prior to their round-the-moon mission starting in 2024.
The moon crew's car interior was unveiled at a big racing event: The Formula 1 (F1) Grand Prix of the United States in Austin, Texas between Oct. 20 and 22. Artemis 2 astronauts Reid Wiseman (from NASA) and Jeremy Hansen (from the Canadian Space Agency) also came on site Oct. 22 to talk with the racing crews.
Each Crew Transportation Vehicle will make a roughly nine-mile (14-km) journey at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for the big launch day. Canoo is tasked with supplying a fleet of three vehicles, with requirements including seating for eight and "using zero-emissions technology for the next generation of explorers," NASA officials wrote in 2022.
As the Artemis 2 astronauts showed in a dress rehearsal last month, they will don spacesuits in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building. After waving goodbye to well-wishers, the four astronauts (who also include NASA's Victor Glover and Christina Koch) will get in their cars for the drive to Launch Pad 39B. That pad used to be the last stop on Earth for Apollo program astronauts and space shuttle crews as well.
The @Canoo Crew Transport Vehicle at the 2023 USA Formula 1 GP in Austin. Loved seeing it on display at the NASA stage during F1 race weekend!#Canoo #CTV #NASA #CanooToMoon #AustinF1 #Austin2023 #USGP23 pic.twitter.com/OzBs2YFULrOctober 23, 2023
The vehicles are used not only on launch day, but in other pre-launch operations including launch dress rehearsals and training. And it's not the only fleet of cars serving astronaut crews today: SpaceX has Teslas on hand for Crew Dragon missions to the International Space Station. Boeing plans a customized Airstream Atlas Touring Coach, dubbed Astrovan II, for its own commercial crew flights.
There have been a few generations of vehicles driving astronauts to launch pads at KSC. The Mercury 7 astronauts traveled in a modified trailer pulled by a REO Motor Co. tractor, for example, while Apollo, Apollo-Soyuz and early shuttle crews used a converted Clark Cortez motorhome.
Starting in November 1983, the space shuttle shifted to the iconic "Astrovan" that brought all astronaut crews to the pad between missions STS-9 and STS-135. The Astrovan is now on display at the KSC visitor center.
Other preparations for Artemis 2 are ongoing, with the crew pivoting to Earth orbit operations at NASA's Johnson Space Center in their sixth month of training. A simulated recovery exercise with NASA and the U.S. Navy is coming up soon, NASA officials said in an Oct. 19 statement, while the crew and service modules for Artemis 2's Orion spacecraft also met up on Oct. 19.