Canada's newest astronauts finish basic training at NASA in Texas

Security and safety personnel walk with the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System rocket that will be used for the Artemis 1 Mission as it is moved to the Pegasus barge at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility where it was built in New Orleans. (AP Ph

Massive NASA rocket part to be ferried up Mississippi River on barge

The core stage of the huge rocket being built to take the first woman to the Moon has left its factory in New Orleans for MS, where it will undergo its final testing before its first launch.

As part of the process to become astronauts, the candidates trained in robotics; systems used aboard the space station; exercises that simulate spacewalking; flying T-38 jets; and learning the Russian language due to NASA's partnership with Roscosmos for launches to the space station and talking to Russian astronauts aboard the ISS.

"These astronauts could one day in fact walk on the moon as part of the Artemis program and perhaps one of them could be among the first humans to walk on Mars", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said today during the graduation. "The SLS rocket was built to deliver American astronauts and maximum payloads to the Moon and deep space destinations".

"I'm looking forward to carrying forward the torch of the Canadian space program".

The roughly 1.3-mile trip from the Michoud factory to the barge's dock is just the start of the SLS flight hardware's journey.

"When they land, our American astronauts will step foot where no human has ever been before: the Moon's South Pole", says NASA.

Pegasus is the latest in a line of NASA barges that moved space shuttle tanks from Michoud to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The SLS rocket core taking this journey this week is now the largest rocket core stage NASA has ever built.

The next moon landing will be special not not only because it will be the first in so many decades but also because it will be the first crewed moon mission to include a gender-diverse crew. In addition to its miles of complex cabling, avionics and propulsion systems, its two propellant tanks hold a combined 733,000 gallons of propellant to power the four RS-25 engines.

John Honeycutt, the SLS Program Manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, said the rocket will bring in a new era of galactic exploration. "Roll out of the core stage to Stennis ahead of the core stage Green Run test series signals an exciting next phase as NASA prepares for the first Artemis launch".

It will undergo tests at Stennis ahead of the first Artemis launch, now planned for 2021, according to Tony Castilleja, a systems engineer with the Boeing Space Team.

The core stage is the spine of the SLS rocket.

Teams at Michoud are working in tandem to manufacture and assemble core stages for the first three Artemis lunar missions.

That chapter is aimed at returning US astronauts - and potentially Canadians - to the moon during this decade as part of the Artemis and Lunar Gateway projects. The spacecraft is undergoing final testing at NASA's Plum Brook Station in Ohio. NASA's Exploration Ground Systems at Kennedy has verified the launch pad's infrastructure and sound suppression system for the first Artemis launch.

NASA wants to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by the year 2024, which it plans on doing through the Artemis lunar exploration program.

The new graduates have completed more than two years of basic training, and are the first to graduates since NASA announced its Artemis programme.

Once astronauts dock Orion at the Gateway - which is a small spaceship in orbit around the moon - the astronauts will be able to live and work around the Moon, and from the spaceship, astronauts will take expeditions to the surface of the Moon.

Before the USA sent the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, it sent three classes of robotic missions between 1961 and 1968.

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