NASA rehearses its return to the moon on Arizona's lunar-like surface

ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy reports on what it's like to drive NASA's lunar rover

Fifty years since man last set foot on the moon, NASA's aiming to return people to the lunar surface in its ambitious Artemis mission.

But ambition takes practice and practice is not easy when you're aiming for a satellite more than 238 million miles away from Earth.

NASA is hoping to take space travel further than ever before, but it's had to search for an area closer to home as its training base.

And in the remote, lunar-like surface outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, it has found it.

For the past three weeks, NASA astronauts and scientists have been practicing using a moon rover to explore the craterous, uneven ground beneath them.

The rehearsals will help the Artemis team prepare to launch a newly designed rover to the moon in a future mission, planned for 2030.

After multiple failures to launch the first flight of the Artemis programme, NASA's already overbudget mission to return people to the moon is under increasing pressure to produce results.

But the potential of this mission, due to cost $93 billion, was on display when ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy visited the base and drove the lunar rover, used in the tests.

'Somehow I got the thing back in one piece,' ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy wrote after taking NASA's lunar rover out for a spin

I guess if you work for NASA you’re all about trying new things and managing risk.

Even so, putting me in the driving seat of a moon lander seemed to be a pretty big gamble.

I mean let’s put this into context, they cost millions and are incredibly rare. I have only just mastered driving on the other side of the road and am a bit iffy when it comes to my left and rights.

Oh and I’m the wrong generation to have spent my life playing those games with joysticks.

Anyway, none of that seemed to bother Lucien Junkin, NASA's Space Exploration Vehicle Chief Engineer. And so, I ended up driving a moon rover in the Arizona desert.

It doesn’t have a steering wheel just a single lever that goes up, down, left and right. And there are no pedals to bring this eye wateringly expensive craft to a halt.

So, however much I slammed my feet to the floor it wasn’t going to stop. All you have to do is let go of the lever and, this being a finely tuned machine, it gently stops.

What they do have are wheels that turn 360 degrees so you can drive sideways. I don’t suppose there’s much need to parallel park in space, but what an easy task that would be!

Anyway, somehow I got the thing back in one piece and no animals or humans appeared to be harmed in the process.

Someone will be driving one properly across the moon soon. It certainly won’t be me!

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...