NASA Astronauts Run Into Cow While Practicing For Lunar Landing

In September 2026, NASA aimed to achieve a historic milestone by landing the first astronauts on the Moon in over half a century through its ambitious Artemis III mission. This monumental task necessitates an extensive coordination of contractors and logistics, setting the stage for a groundbreaking return to lunar exploration.

Preparations for this extraordinary mission are already in full swing. NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas recently conducted a series of simulated “moonwalks” in the northern Arizona desert. These simulations offered valuable insights and led to a series of inspiring and humorous photographs released by NASA this week. Among these images, one amusing shot captured the duo’s close encounter with a curious cow, playfully dubbed “Close EnCOWnters.”

For these simulations, Rubins and Douglas did not wear their fully pressurized spacesuits—notoriously complex suits. Instead, they carried equipment-laden backpacks and wore 70-pound mockups of their movement-restricting spacesuits, creating an unusual yet practical training scenario. Historically, spacesuits from NASA’s Apollo missions were challenging to move in, making actions like grasping objects and kneeling particularly awkward in the Moon’s reduced gravity.

Moreover, teams simulated lunar sunsets and sunrises using a powerful spotlight, replicating the unique lighting conditions at the Moon’s southern pole. As NASA describes, the Sun “moves across the horizon, skimming the surface like a flashlight lying on a table.” NASA mineralogist Cherie Achilles highlighted the importance of these night simulations, stating, “Night simulations show us how tough it is for the astronauts to navigate in the dark. It’s pretty eye-opening.”

Curious bovine onlookers added an unexpected element to the simulations, as some cows watched the astronauts analyzing the local environment. NASA humorously noted, “There are, of course, no cows on the Moon,” sharing an image of a bull observing the astronauts.

Additionally, Rubins and Douglas were tasked with transmitting data about a simulated Moon rock to a nearby team, mirroring the data collection process planned for Artemis III. NASA intends to utilize data from its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to provide astronauts with a detailed geological map during the mission.

Despite these preparations, significant challenges remain. No astronaut has yet launched into space aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Moreover, NASA plans to use SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft to land on the lunar surface. Although Starship has reached orbit once without a crew, it has yet to achieve a successful landing on Earth, let alone on the Moon.

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