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“Not Boys Club Anymore”: 1st Woman To Head NASA Human Spaceflight Mission

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Kathryn Lueders is the first woman head of NASA’s human spaceflight programme. (File)

New Delhi:

On International Women’s Day, Kathryn Lueders, the first woman head of NASA’s human spaceflight programme, talks about the space agency’s plan to put the first woman and the first person of colour on the moon by 2026. “I’ll set us up to be able to put boots on the moon, the first woman and first person of colour on the moon…When we land on the moon it’s going to be a female,” Ms Lueders said.

In an exclusive interview with String Reveals, Ms Lueders also discussed the historic Artemis 3 programme which aims to put the first crewed mission on the moon after nearly 53 years. “The Artemis 3 mission is going to be the one that actually takes the crewed vehicles and then attaches it to the SpaceX man landing system. It then lands the whole crew on the moon,” Ms Lueders said.

“We are aiming for 2025-2026,” she said, referring to the timeline for the Artemis 3 mission.

Originally scheduled for 2024, the Artemins launch is a few years behind former US President Donald Trump’s original vision. But Ms Lueders remains optimistic. “What’s great is that we are continuing to make progress towards the mission,” she said.

Ms Lueders explained the challenges she has faced since taking over as the head of the human spaceflight programme. “It was really tough to get ready for the first launch attempt on the Artemis 1 vehicle. Everybody is a little disappointed when you have to stop and work through problems… It took us until the third time to be able to do the launch but the launch was beautiful. We learnt so much from those first two launch attempts,” she said.

Safety, she said, was of utmost importance. “We always have schedules and goals. What’s more important is that we have a plan to make sure we can deliver people safely. We cannot skip steps,” the NASA human spaceflight head said.

She has in the past called NASA “the boys club”, but it is not so anymore. “We have had many deputy administrators that are women too. But when we get an administrator – that’s a woman – that would be a great thing. But right now, Bill Nelson’s doing a fantastic job,” Ms Lueders said.

Ms Lueders has also been the head of the exhaustive testing programme at NASA. In the past, NASA has partnered with SpaceX.

On being asked about NASA’s plans to partner with other space agencies, Ms Lueders said, “We are really open for business.”

She said NASA is trying to find new ways to be able to partner from a science and technology perspective. Ultimately, the goal is to have as many people as possible involved in some aspect of the Artemis mission.

“It’s a very exciting future,” she said.

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