The following is a transcript of an interview with astronaut and Artemis team member Kate Rubins that aired Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”
MAJOR GARRETT: We are joined now by astronaut Kate Rubins, a candidate for a future crewed Artemis mission. She joins us from the Kennedy Space Center. Dr. Rubins, good morning. This is a test flight. What are you looking for in terms of safety as you evaluate what we’re about to see in the coming days?
DR. KATE RUBINS: Good morning, it’s great to be with you. As you said, this is a test flight. And so one of the reasons that we’re testing before we put humans on top of this incredible machine is to really push the edge of the envelope. So from an engineering perspective, one of our main objectives is to look at the heat shield. In order to get the heat shield at this 5,000 degree heating, and- and check out all of our objectives around the moon, we need to do this test launch. And so we’re looking for things like the loading to go out, the launch. And then we’re really on reentry for the heat shield and the capsule recovery.
MAJOR GARRETT: And for those who might remember, as I do Apollo, what is different between the heat shield then and the heat shield stresses now?
DR. RUBINS: Yeah, so we’ve got similar profiles and similar reentry speeds. But the materials are completely different. So you know, we’ve had 50 years in the intervening time to adopt a lot of these modern advances in materials science. I work on the spacesuits and we’re actually adapting a lot of that, and our new spacesuit design as well.
MAJOR GARRETT: I mentioned that I remember Apollo, I don’t remember mercury, but I remember all the excitement nationally about the space exploration projects, then they were all almost entirely led by white men. There is a greater diversity, for women and for people of color at NASA now, talk about the component involving women such as yourself in Artemis, and everything else that NASA is under- undertaking right now.
DR. RUBINS: Yeah, I think one of the great things about the astronaut corps these days is we’re not really looking at it in terms of categories anymore. We have such a great diverse and talented workforce. And you see this in the whole of NASA, if you look at all the centers across the US. So, our astronaut class, we’ve got a diversity of backgrounds. You know, we’ve got scientists, engineers, fighter pilots, we’ve got military and civilian. We, of course, have thrown open those doors for women and people of color. And it’s pretty cool to get to hang out with these people from- from a very variety of backgrounds, and see what they all bring to 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 need to go back? And is that the only thing we’re trying to accomplish? And doesn’t it feel somewhat repetitive? What would you tell them?
DR. RUBINS: That is a really good question. And we do need to go back we’re gonna go back in a completely different way. So the first part of this program is really to establish a sustainable lunar presence on the on the lunar surface, and then both in orbit around the moon, this is helping us get ready for Mars, we really need to learn how to operate long term in deep space in order to be able to explore, and the places that we’re going are incredibly different. So, Apollo was focused on one kind of pretty easy to get to equatorial area, we’re taking the challenge on to go to the polar regions, these permanently shadowed regions, they are always in darkness. That’s where we found water ice. And this is- water ice is so crucial for things like building fuel for a Mars mission. And a lot of the scientific discoveries, we’ve got volatile compounds in that water ice could unlock a lot of things about how the earth and our solar system forms.
MAJOR GARRETT: And for a lay person like me, should we think of the moon as a potential launching platform for this eventual exploration of Mars?
DR. RUBINS: It absolutely, absolutely could be, you know, it’s also a place that we’re probably going to take vehicles and do some long-term deep space checkouts before we really commit ourselves to a Mars voyage. And it’s also where we’re going to be learning about how to do extensive surface operations. So we’re building new planetary suits. We’re learning how we can have humans live in rovers, how they can do a human robotic partnership to uncover a lot of terrain and explore a lot more. And what’s it-what’s it 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’s it gonna be like for you tomorrow? Your level of personal scientific anticipation and maybe apprehension?
DR. RUBINS: Yeah, we were talking about it with the other astronauts that are here. And everybody said, you know, when, when it’s your launch, you get calmer and calmer as the launch approaches, because you’ve trained for this, you know, your procedures, you’ve been in the sim for 1000s of hours, so I mean, you’re just you’re just absolutely calm right up until the moment of lift off. With this, we’re getting more and are nervous as we go. I think we are all so excited about this. It is a test flight. So, you know, we’re tempering our expectations. We got a lot of great Florida weather and those kinds of things. But-but we are very excited and we can feel the excitement mounting.
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 that when I go talk to kids in classrooms all across the U.S. And you tell them you know, we’re going to the moon. And it’s something that 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 to.
MAJOR GARRETT: Dr. Kate Rubins, we thank you so very much. CBS News will be carrying a special report tomorrow around 8:30am when the rocket is expected to launch and we will be right back.