NASA Astronauts Will Get to Ride Inside These Seriously Funky Vans Before Launching to the Moon

NASA Astronauts Will Get to Ride Inside These Seriously Funky Vans Before Launching to the Moon
Conceptual image of the upcoming Crew Transportation Vehicles. (Image: Canoo Technologies Inc.)

The 14 km trip from NASA’s astronaut crew quarters to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Centre in Florida will never be the same, thanks to the introduction of these undeniably unusual transport vehicles.

NASA is in the midst of preparing all sorts of cool stuff for the upcoming Artemis missions to the Moon, from a gigantic rocket through to new lunar rovers and lunar spacesuits. Not to leave any stones unturned, the space agency is looking to replace the vehicles with which it delivers astronauts from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building to Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Centre.

And like so many other projects in the works, NASA has tapped a private partner to develop a solution. In this case, NASA has chosen Canoo Technologies, an EV startup based in Arkansas. The company will now design and build three custom vans, or Crew Transportation Vehicles (CRTs), as the space agency refers to them, because, when you’re NASA, everything deserves a fancy name. Anyhoo, Canoo needs to have the fleet ready for tests in June 2023. The first crewed Artemis flights aren’t scheduled until 2024.

“We are honoured to transport the Artemis crew to the launch site for the first human lunar landing in more than 50 years,” Tony Aquila, CEO of Canoo, said in a press release. The company plans to release its first electric minivans for sale later this year, having chosen Pryor, Oklahoma, as the site of its factory. The pod-shaped Artemis vans will be based on the company’s all-electric commercial models.

Together, the three vans built for NASA will carry four fully suited astronauts, flight support staff, and associated equipment to the launch pad. Canoo also needs to ensure that the vehicles can support pre-launch activities, such as training and launch countdown tests. Canoo says its EVs are environmentally friendly and easily recyclable at end of life. They’re also modular and upgradeable.

The introduction of Canoo’s CRTs means it’s the end of the road for NASA’s ageing Astrovan fleet, which dates back to 1983. No word yet if Artemis astronauts will receive complimentary Corvettes, as was the case with their Apollo counterparts.