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NASA tests spacesuits in Oregon, echoing 1960s race to space

Researchers said it was fitting to return to Oregon where rugged, volcanic terrain has helped train astronauts and develop spacesuit technology before.

DESCHUTES COUNTY, Ore. — NASA is now compiling its research from numerous spacesuit tests in Oregon this summer. The NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) tested new spacesuit technology at rugged locations around Bend, John Day and Crater Lake.

"If you could only take astronauts to train them in five places on earth, Oregon in my view would be in the top five," HMP Director Dr. Pascal Lee told KTVZ.

A crew of about 10 people came to Central Oregon in August to test the astronaut gear in volcanic terrain, replicating conditions on the moon and Mars.

"This type of tech has to be tested in an actual realistic field environment, so that's why we came to Oregon," Lee said. "The upshot is that it works really well, it works beautifully."

NASA has a history of similar testing. In the 1960s, trainees of the Apollo Program studied Oregon's diverse landscapes.

Credit: KGW
1960s Apollo Program trainees study rugged volcanic landscapes near Oregon's Paulina Lake.

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The subsequent Lunar Landing of Apollo 11 in 1969 made history, with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin wearing suits developed in part from that research in Oregon.

"We thought this was really fitting, because we do have a spacesuit to test and we are going back to the moon, so we came to Oregon," Lee said.

Lee explained that details from the spacesuit testing efforts in Oregon must be written into technical papers and journals. Then the suits could be used in the next decade for exploration on the moon. He hopes astronauts can explore Mars by the 2030s.

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