Science And Space

NASA’s new race to place a lady on the moon – 60 Minutes


Twelve American males have walked on the moon. The final Apollo astronaut left his footprint there in December 1972. Now, a half-century later, NASA is planning to ship individuals again to the moon. The brand new program is named Artemis, after Apollo’s legendary twin sister, and the purpose is that the following footprint on the moon might be made by a lady. The astronaut who will get that task hasn’t been chosen but.

As you are about to see, this new push to the moon has been stricken by doubts, value overruns, and delays. However we discovered one thing else attention-grabbing after we visited NASA: the Artemis program is not simply named for a lady, it is largely being run by ladies

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson: So there is no such thing as a place on launch day that I’d wanna be however proper right here.

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson is NASA’s first feminine launch director. 

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Charlie Blackwell-Thompson

In a 12 months or so, she’ll give the “go for launch” command for the primary Artemis moon rocket in historic Firing Room One at Kennedy Area Middle, which she first visited greater than 30 years in the past as a school graduate interviewing for a job.

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson: It is the identical room that the Apollo 11 mission was launched from. And it’s the identical room that we’ll launch the primary flight of the Artemis missions.

Invoice Whitaker: When that younger girl walked in right here for the primary time, did you actually say to your self, “I wish to do that at some point”?

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson: I completely did. My– my thought was, “How do I get a seat on this room?

Invoice Whitaker: And now you could have “the” seat within the room.

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson: I’ve a reasonably good seat on this room. (LAUGHTER)

All of the Apollo moon missions had been launched atop big Saturn 5 rockets, on the time essentially the most highly effective on the planet. NASA’s new rocket is much more muscular.

Invoice Whitaker: Can you place it into phrases how highly effective this new rocket is?

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson:  The core stage may have a whole bunch of hundreds of gallons of propellant. Over eight million kilos of thrust at liftoff.

Probably the most highly effective rocket ever is named the Area Launch System, or SLS. In growth for a decade, it has but to fly; and has solely fired its 4 major engines as soon as, in a check.

Jody Singer: It’s onerous work dishonest gravity.

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  Jody Singer

Jody Singer is one other feminine first for NASA: as the primary girl to run Marshall Area Flight Middle in Alabama, it has been her job to construct the SLS, which is designed to go to the moon and past.

Jody Singer: It’s constructed for going to deep house. And proper now, it is the one car that exists that may carry the Orion and take what it does to have the ability to go to deep house. 

The Orion is the capsule that astronauts will experience on high of the SLS rocket. The primary one is able to go. The lunar lander remains to be within the “idea” stage, however NASA does not really want it till the third Artemis moon mission.

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson: Artemis I is about testing out this built-in car, SLS with Orion. Artemis II is in regards to the incorporation of the crew, and getting ready us for Artemis III. The place, then, we’ll go to the floor of the moon.

Invoice Whitaker: Do you hear your self, and the way cool that sounds?

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson: It does sound fairly cool.

One other cool piece of the Artemis plan is an area station known as Gateway, meant to orbit the moon. 

NASA intends to make use of Elon Musk’s firm SpaceX to launch Gateway’s parts on one in all its Falcon Heavy rockets. 

The Falcon Heavy is already flying, its first launch despatched Musk’s Tesla Roadster towards Mars a few years in the past; sure, that basically occurred. Jody Singer says SpaceX is an illustration of NASA partnering with industrial launch suppliers. 

Jody Singer: We work collectively. And I believe working collectively, that’s how we can ship on the Artemis program. We each convey nice issues on this partnership. 

When that partnership will really ship men and women to the moon is unsure. Donald Trump set 2024 because the purpose; that was seen by insiders as unrealistic. President Biden hasn’t set a timetable, however his White Home has given the concept of Artemis an early thumbs up.

White Home Press Secretary Jen Psaki at briefing: …one other man and a lady to the moon, which may be very thrilling.

Invoice Whitaker: What does it say about NASA that you’re in these positions in what was a completely male dominated sphere?

Jody Singer:  Properly, primary, I would say we have come a great distance. You realize, Charlie and I we all know we have recognized one another for not less than 20 years. We appreciated one another. But in addition, we had been, , generally the one ladies within the room.

Not any extra. Charlie Blackwell-Thompson says that on launch day, 30% of the engineers in what’s now her firing room might be ladies.

Invoice Whitaker: Have you ever at all times been desirous about house, while you had been a bit of child, even?

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson: I bear in mind the final Apollo missions, the final couple. And I can bear in mind the sense of curiosity and awe. I may go exterior and I may search for on the sky, and that our astronauts had been visiting the moon.

The pool of 18 Artemis astronauts has already been chosen. 9 ladies, 9 males. Six of whom are check pilots, 4 have Ph.D.’s, three are medical docs. It is not recognized but which ones will fly to the moon, however two are in house proper now on the Worldwide Area Station.

Invoice Whitaker: Why the moon? Why put out the expense to return to the moon?”

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson:  We’re nonetheless studying from the samples that had been returned through the Apollo program. There may be a lot science– a lot scientific discovery to return from returning to the moon.

Scientists are particularly tantalized by latest proof that there is numerous ice close to the moon’s South Pole. That is precisely the place Artemis is supposed to land. Ice means H2O, which suggests water to maintain life, and hydrogen and oxygen to doubtlessly flip into rocket gasoline.

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson: I’d level to the moon being– a proving floor, a waypoint, for us to learn to dwell in Deep Area after we’re solely days from dwelling, versus months or years, for locations like Mars.

Lori Garver: And it is going to be nice after we return, and we– particularly might be nice if we, this time, can keep.

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  Lori Garver

Lori Garver was the quantity two official at NASA throughout a lot of the Obama administration. She needs America again on the moon, however believes the present method is the flawed strategy to get there.

Lori Garver: I’d not have really helpful the federal government construct a $27 billion rocket, when the personal sector is constructing rockets almost as giant for no value to the taxpayer.

She’s speaking about rockets like Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy. 

Garver was an early advocate of turning all the event of massive new rockets over to non-public firms like SpaceX.

Lori Garver: However the Congress had a special purpose. Their purpose was actually to increase the contracts and jobs of their districts.

On the time – 2010 – the house shuttle was about to be grounded and members of Congress feared that aerospace jobs of their districts would go away too.

Invoice Whitaker: The SLS, the Area Launch System, is mockingly known as the Senate Launch System. Are you able to clarify to us why it is bought that nickname?

Lori Garver: On this case, it was the Senate who got here to us at NASA and stated, “No, we do not like your plan. And we’re going to make you construct it this fashion.”

So Boeing, prime contractor for the house shuttle and longtime NASA associate, turned the prime contractor for the SLS.

Lori Garver: The business stated they might do it for $6 billion in six years. That was the rocket. It has been $20 billion in 11 years.

NASA’s Jody Singer acknowledges the delays and price overruns, however insists it is the appropriate mannequin.

Jody Singer: The Area Launch System, I am proud to say, has work that is over 45 states and over 1,100 distributors. So the Area Launch System is a nationwide car. Meaning jobs. That signifies that, throughout the nation, for the SLS alone, there’s over 25,000 those that have jobs.

Lori Garver:  It is ironic, truthfully, that NASA, the very image of a democratic and capitalist society– has achieved numerous its human spaceflight applications in additional of a socialist means.

Invoice Whitaker:  Extra in a socialist means. (LAUGH) I believe lots of the senators whose districts are getting these NASA jobs would balk at that description.

Lori Garver:  You’ll plant the potatoes in March. You’ll construct your rocket in my district. That is – that is what it’s.

The highest-down method, Garver says, has produced a NASA SLS rocket that’ll value greater than $2 billion for each launch, whereas SpaceX flies its Falcon Heavy for a fraction of that.

NASA’s SLS can launch a heavier payload, however it’s a use-it-and-lose-it rocket; none of its components might be reused. In contrast, spacex booster rockets make smooth landings after launch, to allow them to be used time and again. Two of its first levels have already been launched eight instances every!

Invoice Whitaker: Am I lacking one thing in saying that that is the brand new means, and what is going on on with NASA is the outdated means?

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson: Properly, I in all probability would not characterize it as “the brand new means” and “the outdated means.” I’d in all probability characterize it as simply alternative ways. I’d say that our rocket was designed based mostly on confirmed expertise.

Invoice Whitaker: So that you would not say it is “outdated,” it is “confirmed”?

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson: I’d say it is “confirmed.”

Nonetheless, the SpaceX rockets are confirmed sufficient that NASA now trusts them to hold its astronauts to the Worldwide Area Station.

These profitable missions shouldn’t be confused with a wholly new rocket known as starship that SpaceX is testing in Texas. Three check flights to date, all three ending in spectacular explosions… the most recent one simply final week.

Invoice Whitaker: So ought to NASA pivot and begin counting on SpaceX and industrial launchers– for the moon and past?

Lori Garver:  Undoubtedly. We should always’ve prior to now.

Invoice Whitaker: Is NASA able to making that shift?

Lori Garver:  Oh, after all. I imply, NASA is able to greater than they– they notice.

Invoice Whitaker: Now, contemplating all you could have instructed me, will Congress let NASA make that shift?

Lori Garver: In all probability not.

For the second, the core stage for the primary artemis mission sits in a check stand in Mississippi – the identical stand used for the Apollo missions. It is awaiting a test-firing, after technical glitches minimize the primary one brief.

There are six American flags on the moon, one for every Apollo touchdown. However the latest flag there may be Chinese language, left final 12 months by a robotic lander that collected samples and introduced them again to earth. Beijing finally plans to ship astronauts.

Invoice Whitaker: Aren’t we in an area race with China?

Lori Garver: There may be not a race to go to the moon. We received it. We received it six instances. And I’ve little doubt that we’ll be again once more with individuals earlier than anybody else goes.

And Charlie Blackwell-Thompson would be the girl to launch them, from her seat within the firing room.

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson:  We speak quite a bit in regards to the moon, and I believe the moon is phenomenal, and I am unable to wait to return. However after we discuss these younger individuals which may be like me after I was youthful, trying up on the night time sky and searching up on the moon, I need ’em to search for on the night time sky and never be restricted to the moon.

Produced by Rome Hartman. Affiliate producer, Sara Kuzmarov. Broadcast affiliate, Emilio Almonte. Edited by Craig Crawford.



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