How NASA’s ‘Red Crew’ Saved the Artemis I Moon Launch

Brave efforts were made throughout Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday as NASA’s Artemis I rocket soared to the moon. But something more needs to be said about the red crew, three men who played a key role in getting the mission back on track.

The red crew members were Trent Annis, Billy Cairns and Chad Garrett, and they did something dangerous and risky when they performed live repairs to fix a leak on a fueled rocket. For them, it was another day at the office, if the office was anything that could reduce you to nothing more than a memory in an unfortunate moment.

“All I can say is that we were very excited,” Mr. Annis said in an interview on NASA TV after the launch. “I was ready to get up there and go.”

When a rocket is filled with propellants, humans generally aim to be as far away as possible. A rocket at its best is a controlled chemical reaction that lifts tons of material into space on a tower of fire. At its worst, it’s an explosive disaster that incinerates anything that gets too close.

It was therefore surprising on Tuesday during the launch countdown when Derrol Nail, NASA’s live video feed commentator, announced that real humans were heading to the launch pad. Their goal was to repair parts of the space launch system, which was leaking hydrogen and threatening to immobilize the rocket – which was then filled with huge amounts of explosive liquid hydrogen.

The red crew members and their caretakers traveled to the launch pad in a pair of white – not red – vehicles. Three figures dressed in dark clothing – again, not red – climbed into part of the launch tower and got to work.

“We were very focused on what was going on up there,” Mr. Annis said in the post-launch interview. “It squeaks, it makes air vent noises, it’s pretty scary.”

The precise work was unknown to anyone who was not a rocket engineer. Mr. Nail described a need to “tighten” something he described as “packing nuts”. On Twitter, NASA explained that the bolts needed to be tightened because the valves they controlled may have leaked.

While cutting-edge technology helps, “there are also times when you just need to put a spanner on a nut,” Mike Bolger, Exploration Ground Systems program manager at Kennedy Space Center, told a conference. post-launch press on Wednesday. .

Launch control engineers then tested the valves, and everything the red crew did worked. The leak had stopped. Hydrogen loading into the rocket has resumed.

While the Red Crew Tuesday night convertible was something, their work was not unprecedented. A NASA spokeswoman highlighted the role such a group played in responding to a similar leak more than 50 years ago.

“We sent a team of three technicians and a safety man to the pad and these technicians are tightening the bolts around the valve,” said a launch control commentator according to a 1969 NASA transcript. “Once the techs are gone, we’ll be running hydrogen through the system to make sure the leak has been fixed.

The mission was Apollo 11, and the repair got Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon.

Within hours of their brief visit to the launch pad, the Artemis I mission rocket was on its way to the moon, and the red team was on the ground, discussing their actions with the live NASA crew. They pointed out that Mr Cairns had worked on red crews for 37 years, but this was the first time he had been on the launch pad in such dangerous circumstances. Mr. Annis said in the interview that he had yet to fully appreciate his contribution to the mission.

“I still can’t believe it,” he said. “It’s surreal to me, just crazy.”

Kayla Barron, an astronaut who served aboard the International Space Station and provided live commentary to NASA for Wednesday’s launch, said the three men’s experience shows just how important space exploration is. “team sport”.

“I think you demonstrated that perfectly today,” she said. “None of us could have accomplished this on our own.”

Kenneth Chang contributed report.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: