NASA and US Navy Readiness for Moon Mission Astronauts

The crew of the USS San Diego, a vessel based in San Diego, California, in the Pacific Ocean, regularly trains for the task of delivering soldiers and equipment into conflict zones. However, a more detailed examination of the patches and colors of some of the uniforms that have recently been on board provides indications that one of their present missions has goals that are about as far removed from a theater of conflict as possible. Although this is a rare occasion, Lieutenant Jackson Cotney, a U.S. Navy helicopter pilot attached to the USS San Diego doing search and rescue training, notes that it falls well within the scope of what they do on a daily basis.


Cotney and hundreds of sailors collaborated with NASA’s four-person Artemis II crew during recent exercises in the Pacific Ocean to get ready for a crucial aspect of the intricate operation: the safe return and rescue of the Orion capsule and crew following their successful reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Captain David Walton, the commanding officer of the USS San Diego, reveals that although this is the eleventh recovery exercise in progress, it is the first that involves astronauts participating in the training. “Our first priority is the crew’s health and welfare after they return. Our goal is to extract them from the capsule as soon as possible, provide them with emergency medical care, and then retrieve the equipment so that other flights to the moon or beyond can be made.


Cotney has experience with Artemis previously. At the end of the 25-day Artemis 1 mission in 2022, he flew one of the helicopters that was watching the unmanned Orion capsule land in the Pacific Ocean. Artemis 1 was the spacecraft that carried humans the furthest into space while orbiting the moon. In a recent interview with VOA while aboard the San Diego, he said, “We were the first platform up at 10,000 feet to see that the capsule was intact as it came over the horizon.” It was really thrilling to watch it emerge from the sky. Although this assignment is new to me, naval aviation is not.

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