No Dummy!: NASA “Moonikin” Honors Hispanic Engineer

“Commander Campos” will be making a test flight beyond the Moon on Artemis I!

NASA is working on a new space program called Artemis, that will send the first woman and the first person of color to walk on the Moon. The Artemis program also will set up a base station on the Moon and make use of new technologies that could someday be used to send humans to Mars. As the first step in the Artemis program, NASA will be launching an uncrewed test flight (a ship with no people on it) later this year called Artemis I. Artemis I will travel well past the moon (240,000 miles past!), farther than any spacecraft designed to carry humans has ever travelled. And, even though there won’t actually be any humans on board, that doesn’t mean Artemis I will be empty. Sitting in the pilot seat will be a manikin — basically, a test dummy — with special sensors that NASA will use to learn how it can protect the humans on deep space missions from the effects of flight acceleration and vibration, and the impact of landing. In 2021, NASA asked Americans to vote on a name for the “moonikin” (moon + manikin = moonikin, get it?). The winner was “Campos” in honor of Arturo Campos, a Hispanic electrical engineer who worked for NASA from the early 1960s until 1980. Unlike his moonikin, however, Campos was no dummy! Campos, a Mexican-American born in Laredo, Texas, designed the electrical systems for the lunar modules (the parts that were sent down to the Moon) of the Apollo spaceships that NASA used to send the first men to the Moon. In 1970, his expertise helped saved the lives of three astronauts during the Apollo 13 mission. The Apollo 13 astronauts were on their way to the Moon when an explosion in the main part of their spaceship (the “command module”) damaged a number of its systems, including the electrical system. Campos helped the astronauts figure out how to transfer and use power from the lunar module to power the emergency batteries of the command module and bring the ship safely back to Earth.

Image Credit: Created using a NASA photograph

Want to See Some Cool Stuff?

If you want to learn more about Artemis I and the Artemis program generally, this video is really good:  

You should also check out The Adventures of Commander Moonikin Campos and Friends, a series of graphic novels by NASA that explain the Artemis I test flight and the legacy of Arturo Campos at NASA.

Image Credit: NASA

In the meantime, ad astra! (That’s Latin for: To the stars!)

Hey – before you go – did you know that NASA offers internships for high school students?  Check out our Teen Resources to see these and other internships, programs, and competitions for high school students interested in aeronautics and other STEM subjects.