NASA has shown off a trio of new all-electric vehicles that will shuttle the next generation of lunar astronauts to the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center.
Designed by California-based EV startup Canoo Technologies, the environmentally friendly minivan are able to carry four astronauts in their launch spacesuits.
They’ll also transport personnel such as a spacesuit technician, and specialized equipment needed at Launch Pad 39B for NASA’s crewed Artemis missions to the moon. The first of these will be Artemis II, which will carry four astronauts on a fly-by of our nearest neighbor in November 2024.
“The collaboration between Canoo and our NASA representatives focused on the crews’ safety and comfort on the way to the pad ahead of their journey to the moon,” Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, NASA’s Artemis launch director, said in a release. “I have no doubt everyone who sees these new vehicles will feel the same sense of pride I have for this next endeavor of crewed Artemis missions.”
Earlier launch operations at the Kennedy Space Center for NASA’s Apollo and Space Shuttle programs used the so-called “Astrovans” to transport astronauts from the crew quarters in the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building to the launchpad.
“While the path to the pad may look similar, the ride to get there has changed with the times,” NASA said.
Over the next year or so, the fleet of new EVs will be used for astronaut training exercises at the spaceport. And then, in 16 months’ time, the vehicles will play a major role as they transport the four Artemis II astronauts to the recently tested SLS rocket, after which the spacefarers will climb aboard the Orion spacecraft for the first crewed lunar flight in five decades.
A successful Artemis II mission will pave the way for the first crewed lunar landing since 1973, and set NASA on course to building a permanent astronaut base there with a view to using the site as a launchpad for the first human mission to Mars. A journey that starts inside an Earth-based EV and ends inside a Mars lander will certainly be something to savor.