Two UCSD Alumni join Artemis Moon Expedition

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Moon with UCSD logo.
photo courtesy of Unsplash

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A new National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) program named Artemis plans to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024. Of the eighteen team members training to land on the moon, two are UCSD alumni.

The Artemis mission has several focuses: sustainable technology development to keep cosmic exploration affordable, as well as exploration missions that will provide data that lets future explorers replicate their processes. According to NASA, a successful lunar exploration would allow them to set their sights on a Mars landing by the end of the decade. The mission’s current plan is to have unmanned test flights of the Orion spacecraft by 2021, a piloted 10-day loop around the moon by 2023, and a landing at the lunar south pole by 2024.

“In their mission statement for the Artemis program, NASA stated they will use “innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before.” The statement continues. “We will collaborate with our commercial and international partners and establish sustainable exploration by the end of the decade.”

The UCSD alums on the team are Jessica Meir, who received her Ph.D. in marine biology in 2009 from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Kate Rubins, who earned a bachelor of science degree in molecular biology in 1999.

Jessica Meir, originally from Caribou, Maine, was chosen as an astronaut in 2013. She has spent 205 days in space and performed three spacewalks. Before her time at NASA, she studied animal physiology in extreme environments.

“In my experience as a scientist diving underwater or working as an astronaut in space, you’re challenged both mentally and physically at the same time. And I think those are the times when I have really felt the most content in my life,” Meir said in a YouTube video released by NASA.

Kate Rubins was chosen as an astronaut in 2009 and is currently orbiting Earth on her second flight aboard the International Space Station. She was raised in Napa, California, and also holds a doctorate in cancer biology. She was the first person to sequence DNA in space and has performed two spacewalks.

“[Space] is a home, I’ve been there. I’ve lived there for six months. I have friends there, I’m looking forward to going back there, I’m looking forward to going back there like you would look forward to visiting an old apartment,” Rubins said.

According to a press release made by NASA on December 9, 2020, the team was introduced by Mike Pence during the eighth National Space Council meeting at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“I give you the heroes who will carry us to the Moon and beyond–the Artemis Generation,” Pence said. “It is amazing to think that the next man and first woman on the Moon are among the names that we just read. The Artemis Team astronauts are the future of American space exploration–and that future is bright.”  

On February 4, it was announced that President Joe Biden will continue the Artemis program and land humans on the moon, and eventually on Mars’s surface beyond the 2024 deadline  set by the Trump administration in March 2019.

Meir has a good chance of joining Rubins on the space station this year for future research. With another UCSD graduate, Megan McArthur, piloting the carrier ship SpaceX Dragon to provide cargo and personnel to the space station in April, there could be three UCSD alumni in space at the same time.

“We’re going to the moon to explore, and we’re going to the moon for scientific discovery. I don’t look at this as my own accomplishment or something just for me. This is our mission. This is everybody’s mission, our entire planet’s really,” said Meir in her announcement.Nada Alami is the

Assistant Managing Editor of The Triton. You can follow them @trans_father.