Star Wars Goes to Space, Actors Train Like Astronauts - Jaime Bonetti Zeller

Star Wars Goes to Space, Actors Train Like Astronauts

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The latest Star Wars movie is now playing at an International Space Station (relatively) near you, just weeks after a pair of the film’s actors traveled to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to train like real-life astronauts preparing for missions to the space station, Moon, and Mars.

Disney sent Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker through mission control Jan. 17 to Expedition 61 crew members living and working aboard the orbiting laboratory. The crew, including NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan, will have a chance to watch the movie during their personal time this weekend ahead of Koch and Meir’s second spacewalk Jan. 20.

“Watching films aboard the space station is one way for the crew to bond and decompress,” said Bettina Inclán, associate administrator, Office of Communications, NASA Headquarters in Washington. “On occasion, we’re able to share some of the latest film releases for them to enjoy at their leisure and as free-time allows. Science fiction films are often the most popular among astronauts. They also can literally enjoy them while floating in microgravity, which is cool.”

On Dec. 11, the film’s Kelly Marie Tran and Naomi Ackie – used to inhabiting galaxies far, far away on screen – spent the day learning about NASA’s plans to explore closer to home with the new Artemis program. The first woman and next man will land on the lunar surface by 2024, and the agency will enable sustainable lunar exploration by 2028. Using those experiences will prepare NASA for its next giant leap – exploration of Mars in the mid-2030s.

In addition to experiencing simulated zero gravity and microgravity – and trying out a NASA-style ‘force push’ – in the agency’s Active Response Gravity Offload System, or ARGOS, Tran and Ackie had a chance to taste test astronaut food at the Space Food Laboratory, drive a lunar rover and try on spacesuits.

The duo also climbed inside a mockup of NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Though not quite ready to make its jump to light speed, Orion is preparing for a run to deep space that would do the Millennium Falcon proud. Launching on the powerful new Space Launch System rocket, this capsule will take crew safely to lunar orbit where they will dock with the Gateway outpost for expeditions to the surface of the Moon before returning crew safely back to Earth.

Ackie and Tran received training help from NASA astronauts Meghan McArthur and Jessica Watkins. McArthur is a veteran of the space shuttle mission STS-125, the fifth and final Hubble servicing mission, and Watkins is one of 11 NASA astronauts who recently graduated after completing more than two years of basic training. Tran and Ackie finished the day with a stop in the Mission Control Center for a space-to-ground call with the NASA astronauts aboard the space station as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano.

Just as droids roam the moons of the Star Wars universe, NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services or CLPS initiative will send new robotic explorers, science instruments and technology demonstrations to the Moon, blazing a trail for a human return. Using these commercial deliveries, NASA will explore more of the Moon than ever before, including the lunar South Pole where humans will land within the next four years.

And while C-3PO and R2-D2 have been stealing scenes for decades, NASA’s VIPER robot will be the star when it launches to the Moon as early as December 2022, to help create the first water resource map on the Moon. Thanks to discoveries from earlier robotic missions, NASA knows there’s ice in permanently shadowed regions of the Moon. The agency’s next step is to discover just how much frozen water is there and how it can be extracted and used for exploration farther in the solar system, including Mars.

About Jaime Bonetti Zeller

Jaime Bonetti Zeller is an investment professional and entrepreneur with businesses in multiple industries. He is president of Servicios Consulares Eurodom, the local partner in the Caribbean region for VFS Global, a leader global outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions and governments worldwide. Jaime Bonetti Zeller also started the company Sofratesa de Panama inc., an organization in the engineering services industry located in Panama City.