The following is a transcript of an interview with astronaut and team member Artemis Kate Rubins aired on Sunday, August 28, 2022 on “Face the Nation”.
MAJOR GARRETT: We are now joined by astronaut Kate Rubins, a candidate for a future manned Artemis mission. She joins us from the Kennedy Space Center. Dr. Rubins, good morning. This is a test flight. What do you look for in terms of security as you evaluate what we are about to see in the coming days?
DR. KATE RUBINS: Good morning, it’s nice to be with you. As you said, this is a test flight. And so one of the reasons we’re testing before putting humans on top of this amazing machine is to really push the envelope limit. So, from an engineering perspective, one of our main goals is to look at the heat shield. To get the heat shield at this 5,000-degree warming and control all of our targets around the moon, we need to do this test launch. And so we’re looking for things like loading to exit, launch. And then we are really back for the heat shield and the recovery of the capsule.
MAJOR GARRETT: And for those who might remember, as I do with Apollo, what’s different between the heat shield back then and the stress of the heat shield now?
DR. RUBINS: Yes, so we have similar profiles and similar re-entry rates. But the materials are completely different. So you know, we’ve had 50 years in the meantime to adopt a lot of these modern advances in materials science. I work on spacesuits and we are actually adapting a lot of them, and also the design of our new spacesuit.
MAJOR GARRETT: I said I remember Apollo, I don’t remember Mercury, but I remember all the excitement nationwide for space exploration projects, then they were all almost entirely led by white men. There is more diversity, for women and people of color at NASA now, talk about the component involving women like you in Artemis and everything NASA is undertaking right now.
DR. RUBINS: Yes, I think one of the great things about the astronaut corps these days is that we’re no longer looking at it in terms of categories. We have such a large, diverse and talented workforce. And you see it all over NASA, if you look at all the centers in the United States. So, in our astronaut class, we have a diversity of backgrounds. You know, we have scientists, engineers, fighter pilots, we have military and civilians. We, of course, have opened those doors to women and people of color. And it’s really cool to hang out with these people from very different backgrounds and see what they all bring into the program.
MAJOR GARRETT: And Dr. Rubins for those who might say: Yes, it’s been 50 years since we’ve been to the moon, do we have to go back? And is this the only thing we are trying to accomplish? And doesn’t it seem a bit repetitive to you? What would you tell them?
DR. RUBINS: This is a really good question. And we have to go back, we will go back in a completely different way. So the first part of this program is really to establish a sustainable lunar presence on the lunar surface, and then both in orbit around the moon, this is helping us prepare for Mars, we really need to learn how to operate long-term in deep space to being able to explore, and the places we’re going to are incredibly different. So, Apollo focused on a fairly easy-to-reach equatorial type of area, we are taking on the challenge of going to the polar regions, these permanently shadowed regions, they are always in the dark. That’s where we found frozen water. And this is that water ice is so crucial for things like building fuel for a mission to Mars. And many of the scientific discoveries we have volatile compounds in that water ice could reveal a lot about how the earth and our solar system are formed.
MAJOR GARRETT: And for a layman like me, should we think of the moon as a potential launch pad for this eventual Mars exploration?
DR. RUBINS: It could be absolutely, absolutely, you know, it’s also a place where we’ll probably take vehicles and do some long-term checkouts in deep space before actually committing to a trip to Mars. And it is also where we will learn how to perform extensive surface operations. So we are building new planetary suits. We are learning how we can make humans live in rovers, how they can create a human robotic partnership to discover a lot of terrain and explore a lot more. And what it is – what it is like to really have that sustained presence on another planetary body.
MAJOR GARRETT: So you are a candidate to be one of these Artemis astronauts. So, just personally, what will it be like for you tomorrow? Your level of personal scientific anticipation and perhaps apprehension?
DR. RUBINS: Yes, we were talking about it with the other astronauts who are here. And everyone said, you know, when, when it’s your launch, you get calmer and calmer as the launch approaches, why have you trained for it, you know, your procedures, you’ve been in the simulation for thousands of hours, so I mean, you are just absolutely calm until the moment of take off. With this, we are getting more and nervous as we go. I think we are all so excited about this. It’s a test flight. So, you know, we’re mitigating our expectations. We have a great time in Florida and that sort of thing. But we are very excited and can feel the excitement increase.
MAJOR GARRETT: And very quickly Dr. Rubins for America. Do you think this is a turning point in terms of the next phase of space exploration?
DR. RUBINS: Absolutely, I really see it when I go to talk to kids in classrooms all over the United States and you tell them you know, we’re going to the moon. And it’s something we haven’t had for several decades in terms of something to inspire kids and provide this kind of exploration activity that the whole world can look forward to.
MAJOR GARRETT: Dr. Kate Rubins, thank you very much. CBS News will be airing a special report tomorrow around 8:30 am when the rocket launch is scheduled and we’ll be back right away.
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