The amphibious warship USS John P. Murtha leaned against a dock alongside Naval Station San Diego on Tuesday. Her stern was wide open and a gray cone-shaped spaceship sat aft.
“This is the first time I’ve seen one of these things in my boat,” said Murtha’s commanding officer, Captain Gervy Alota.
Captain Alota’s crew are working hand in hand with NASA on the space agency’s next mission to the moon.
“The partnership we have with the Navy is extremely important. We’ve been collecting capsules with them for over 50 years, ”said Melissa Jones, NASA Director of Landing and Recovery.
Jones said NASA will launch Artemis I early next year. He will wear the Orion spaceship into orbit and send it on its three-week trip around the moon and back. She said the US Navy and NASA would then retrieve the Orion capsule about 60 miles off the coast of San Diego.
USS Murtha and his crew practiced this recovery using a test version of the capsule. Captain Alota said his crew are hoping to be in place to pick up the real deal next February.
“For my crew, having this opportunity to be a part of it is going to be really special and I guarantee they are going to do it with a smile on their face,” said the San Diego native.
Jones said the Orion mission is the next step towards returning humans to the moon. This mission will eventually allow NASA to train and prove that its technologies can bring people to Mars.
“We want to have boots on the moon by 2024,” Jones said. “If we can reach the Moon and we can maintain it, we will certainly be, as explorers, that humans will want to go further than that.” “