The Artemis I mission to the Moon took a couple of big steps as NASA recently showed off its mighty, partly-assembled SLS rocket (below). Now, the space agency is asking for help naming its first (non-human) passenger, or "moonikin" that will fly aboard the Orion capsule. The dummy will fly on the first mission to help gather data on how travel to the moon might affect the human body.
😎 The view looks good.— NASA (@NASA) June 14, 2021
ICYMI: Workers at @NASAKennedy attached the @NASA_SLS core stage to its twin solid rocket boosters. This massive rocket will propel our @NASA_Orion spacecraft on the #Artemis I mission around the Moon: https://t.co/PktwXexXDZ pic.twitter.com/d5yNL6JEdf
NASA's "Name The Artemis Moonikin Challenge" will let the public choose between eight pre-selected names, rather than risking a "Boaty McBoatface" type situation. Those names are: Ace, Wargo, Delos, Duhart, Campos, Shackleton, Montgomery and Rigel. Each has significance — for instance Montgomery is a tribute to Julius Montgomery, "the first African American ever hired at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to work as a technical professional," NASA said. Duhart, meanwhile, is a reference to former chief medical officer Dr. Irene Huart Long.
NASA will post the vote on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram starting today in a knock-out tournament type challenge. The final vote will happen on June 28 and the moonikin's official name will be announced on June 29.
The moonikin itself (normally called a manikin) "will be equipped with two radiation sensors and sensors in the seat — one under the headrest and another behind the seat — to record acceleration and vibration throughout the mission as Orion travels around the Moon and back to Earth," said NASA. It will be accompanied by "phantoms" made from materials designed to mimic bones, tissue and organs from an adult female. Those already have names: Zolgar and Helga.
NASA most recently planned to fly the unmanned Artemis I mission in November 2021, though such schedules have a tendency to slip. The eventual goal is to make the first manned landings in 2024, including future missions to land the first woman and person of color on the moon.