As before, the original “Moon Suit” was tested here in the 1960s.
(Update: Added video and comments from NASA administrator)
Bend, raw. (KTVZ) — NASA recently tested a new spacesuit designed for return to the Moon and future exploration of Mars at several natural sites in and around central Oregon.
Doctor. Pascal Lee, Houghton-Mars Administrator at NASA, led a pilot effort in Oregon late last month.
“We thought it was really convenient because we have a spacesuit to test and we’re going back to the moon, so we came to Oregon,” Lee said on Monday.
Apollo astronauts trained and tested their spacesuits in Oregon in the 1960s, because the volcanic landscape is so similar to the moon.
He said he hasn’t returned to Oregon to see how useful it is yet.
“We were impressed by its quality,” he told me.
A team of about 10 people came to Oregon to test the new suit at some of the same locations, including Lava Butte, Big Obsidian Lava Flow, Fort Rock, Hole in the Ground, and Yapoh Lava Flow at Mackenzie Pass.
They also visited several new sites in preparation for NASA’s next mission to the south polar highlands of the moon – and finally to Mars.
New sites include the pumice cliff in Crater Lake National Park, Painted Hills National Monument at John Day National Fossil Bed Memorial, Skylight Cave and Little Nash Crater.
“If you don’t know,” he told me, “Oregon actually has beautiful analog sites for the Moon as well as for Mars.”
The reason they’re testing new sites, like Starlight Cave, is because they’re testing spacesuits designed specifically for caves for the first time.
He told me that they set out the requirements for future cave exploration requirements.
“We want–there are other things I can’t talk about, but it was great,” he said to me with a big smile.
Another change tested in the new range is the addition of electronics.
This kit is designed to display GPS maps, show heart rate, respond to voice commands, and assist with detailed image sampling. This is exactly what you’d expect from a 21st century spacesuit.
“The things that make spacewalking on the Moon and Mars safe,” he told me. “This kind of technology needs to be tested in a really realistic field environment, so we came to Oregon.”
Lee expects the suit to be used on the moon within the next decade, saying it was a promising first step.
“Details are written in newspapers and tech magazines, but the result is that it works really well and is really beautiful,” Lee said.
Lee said he could see astronauts exploring Mars in the mid-1930s, and he hoped more tests would be done in Oregon beforehand.
“If you could only train astronauts in five places on Earth, I think Oregon would be in the top five,” he told me.
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