NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Doug “Wheels” Wheelock recently tested a small-scale model of an elevator intended for SpaceX’s Starship, a crucial component for NASA’s Artemis III and IV missions to the Moon. The Starship human landing system will transport two astronauts from the lunar orbit to the Moon’s surface, act as their habitat during the week-long stay, and facilitate their return to the Orion spacecraft.
This elevator is designed to move crew members and equipment between the habitable area of Starship, positioned at the top of the lander, and the lunar surface for moonwalks. The test provided a hands-on experience for the astronauts with a flight-like design of the elevator, showcasing its functionality.
Constructed at SpaceX’s facility in Hawthorne, California, the elevator mockup includes a full-scale basket section with operational mechanical components and crew interfaces for testing.
During the demonstration, astronauts wore spacesuits replicating the size and mobility constraints expected on the Moon. For Artemis III, the crew will wear new advanced spacesuits developed by Axiom Space.
In spacesuits simulating lunar conditions, the crew provided feedback on various aspects of the elevator system, including controls, gate latches, ramp deployment interfaces, cargo space, and dynamic operations while moving along a vertical rail system.
NASA’s Artemis program aims to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, expanding lunar exploration and paving the way for future human missions to Mars.
The human landing system, alongside the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft, advanced spacesuits, rovers, and the Gateway orbiting the Moon, is a critical element of deep space exploration architecture.
Images credit NASA