San Diego Warship Training for Big Role in NASA's Next Moon Mission

USS John P. Murtha crew are tasked with recovering the space capsule NASA will launch at the moon early next year

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Amphibious warship USS John P. Murtha rested against a dock along Naval Base San Diego Tuesday. Its stern was wide open, and a grey cone-shaped spacecraft sat in the back.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen one of these things in my boat,” said Murtha’s Commanding Officer Capt. Gervy Alota.

Capt. Alota’s crew is working hand-in-hand with NASA on the space agency’s next mission around the moon.

“The partnership we have with the Navy is extremely important. We’ve been recovering capsules with them for over 50 years,” said Melissa Jones, NASA’s Landing & Recovery Director.

Jones said NASA will launch Artemis I early next year. It will carry the Orion spacecraft into orbit and send it on its three-week journey around the moon and back. She said the U.S. Navy and NASA will then recover the Orion capsule roughly 60 miles off the coast of San Diego.

U.S.S. Murtha and its crew have been practicing that recovery using a test version of the capsule. Capt. Alota said his crew hopes to be in place to recover the real deal next February.

“For my crew to have that opportunity to be a part of that is truly going to be special and I guarantee they’re going to do it with smiles on their faces,” said the San Diego native.

Jones said the Orion mission is the next step towards putting humans back on the moon. That mission will eventually allow NASA to practice and prove its technologies can get people to Mars.

“We want to have boots on the moon by 2024-time frame,” Jones said. “If we can make it to the moon and we can sustain it, we will for sure, as explorers, that humans are going to want to go farther than that.”

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