Turn to CNN for live coverage from Kennedy Space Center in Florida this week. Space correspondent Kristin Fisher will bring us moment-by-moment reporting from the launch, along with a team of experts.
While no human crew will travel aboard NASA’s Artemis I mission, that doesn’t mean the Orion spacecraft will be empty.
When the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, scheduled for liftoff on November 16, set off on a trip beyond the moon, the spacecraft will be carrying some special items on board.
Inside Orion will be three mannequins, toys and even an Amazon Alexa, along with historic and educational items.
The mission – which will kick off the Artemis program, with the aim of eventually returning humans to the moon – carries on a tradition that began in the 1960s of NASA spacecraft bearing mementos. The tradition includes the Voyager probe’s gold record and the Perseverance rover’s microchip of 10.9 million names. Artemis I will carry 120 pounds of mementos and other items in its official flight kit.
Moonikins reporting for duty
Sitting in the commander’s seat of Orion will be Commander Moonikin Campos, a suited mannequin that can collect data on what future human crews might experience on a lunar trip. Its name, picked via a public contest, is a nod to Arturo Campos, a NASA electrical power subsystem manager who aided in Apollo 13’s safe return to Earth.
The commander’s post has sensors in place behind the seat and headrest to track acceleration and vibration for the duration of the mission, which is expected to last 25.5 days. The mannequin will also wear the new Orion Crew Survival System suit designed for astronauts to wear during launch and reentry. The suit has two radiation sensors.
Two “phantoms” named Helga and Zohar will ride in other Orion seats. These mannequin torsos are made of materials that mimic the soft tissue, organs and bones of a woman. The two torsos have more than 5,600 sensors and 34 radiation detectors to measure how much radiation exposure occurs during the mission.
The mannequins are part of the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment, a collaboration between the German Aerospace Center, the Israel Space Agency, NASA and institutions across multiple countries. Zohar will wear AstroRad, a radiation protection vest, to test how effective it could be if future crews encounter a solar storm.
Amazon’s Alexa will be along for the ride as a technology demonstration developed between Lockheed Martin, Amazon and Cisco. The tech demo, called Callisto, features reconfigured versions of Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, and Cisco’s teleconferencing platform Webex to test how these applications perform in space.
The goal for Callisto, named for one of Artemis’ hunting attendants from Greek mythology, is to demonstrate how astronauts and flight controllers can use technology to make their jobs safer and more efficient as humans explore deep space.
Callisto will ride along on Orion’s center console. The touch-screen tablet will share video and audio live between the spacecraft and Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control Center in Houston.
Toys in space
Snoopy and space just go together. The beloved character created by Charles M. Schulz has been associated with NASA missions since the Apollo program, when Schulz drew comic strips showing Snoopy on the moon. The Apollo 10 lunar module got the nickname “Snoopy” because its job was to snoop around and scout the Apollo 11 landing site on the moon, according to NASA.