Getting NASA’s Artemis Off the Ground Started by Floating Its Space Vehicles on Air

Fifty years ago, the final Apollo space mission departed the moon’s surface. With it, it carried away the last two humans to ever set foot on the lunar surface, Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt. Now, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is working hard to bring humanity back to the moon through its multi-year, multi-stage Artemis project.

Getting Artemis and its component parts off the ground is obviously no small endeavor. Surprisingly, some of the most important moves for the estimated $93 billion project may well be those that have already happened on the ground before launch.

That’s because building those vehicles in the first place requires an enormous amount of painstaking construction, testing, and preparation; and moving multi-ton, delicate structures through the different stages of their terrestrial lifecycle is easier said than done. Traditional material handling solutions, like cranes or wheeled vehicles, can struggle with the weight of their payloads or risk the safety or integrity of the spacecraft, the facility, and workers. So, how do space agencies like NASA solve these challenges? Simple: before they launch into space, they float on air.

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