It’s been more than 50 years since Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon.
Now, NASA says its new Artemis program aims to explore more of the moon’s surface than ever before, with an eye toward reaching Mars in the future.
But the program also hopes to make history by putting the first woman on the moon within four years. And there’s a chance she could be from Boston.
NASA astronaut, Artemis Team member and Boston native Stephanie Wilson joined WBUR's Morning Edition to talk about the Artemis program and her place in space history.
Highlights from this interview have been lightly edited for clarity.
On what it's like to see the Earth from space
The view from space is spectacular. It's a wonder to behold. The colors are very vivid. And what strikes us from that perspective is that we're one humanity and we have to do all that we can to preserve it. I've had the great pleasure of flying aboard Space Shuttle Discovery three times to build the International Space Station. And over that period, I have seen the International Space Station grow from one laboratory to three laboratories where we're conducting wonderful research 250 miles above the surface of the Earth.
On the Artemis program
These missions are for us to return sustainably to the moon. We will have a flight first that circumnavigates the moon, and then landing on the moon in around 2024, returning men and women to the surface of the moon. The science activities will be related to field geology, sample collection and return. And we'll also have some deployed experiments. So the focus will shift to planetary exploration and deep space.
On being a role model for Black children as an African American astronaut
I hope that it means that they see that it is important to find their passion. I, as a middle school student, had an interest in science, which transitioned to an interest in engineering and studying engineering science at Harvard and aerospace engineering at the University of Texas.
They should have confidence in their capabilities. They should feel that they will bring value and add value to teams. And by doing those things, they'll find success and they will be able to fulfill their dreams. And I'm happy to serve in a role model capacity if that's how young people see me and that it's a very important way to visualize what can be achieved.
On the possibility of being one of the first women to walk on the moon
I am very excited to be considered, along with my colleagues, to be either the first or among the first to walk on the moon. It's a wonderful opportunity to be a representative for the astronaut office for NASA and to go forward to the nation to bring the story of the Artemis program, bring the perspective of being an operator and the experience that I have from my spaceflights to help the Artemis program be successful.
On the timetable for the mission
Currently, we are targeting a flight that will circumnavigate the moon in about 2023. That's the Artemis 2 Flight Mission. The Artemis 3 Mission would be on the moon for about seven days. That would happen in about 2024.
So this initial team that has been announced is sort of the forward team and the astronaut office will be bringing in a class next year, 2021. And I would imagine that with that class they'll be adding more members to the team.
This segment aired on December 14, 2020.