In 2021 Rhodes Lecture presented by Barrett, The Honors College Astronaut Shannon Walker says NASA is pushing to get back to the moon

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April 9, 2021

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is currently engaged in a program called Artemis focused on returning astronauts to the moon that could show tangible results in this decade, according to NASA astronaut Shannon Walker. 

Through the Artemis program, NASA is amping up research and looking at building rockets to get to the moon, establishing habitats on the lunar surface, and developing a space station to orbit the moon, she said. 

Twenty-four American astronauts made the trip from the Earth to the moon between 1968 and 1972 before the lunar program was shut down.

“It’s all starting to come together, all the bits and pieces. There’s so much that goes into doing spaceflight, not just building rockets, but building the habitats and building the research. All of that is coming together,” Walker said, referring to Artemis.

Walker’s comments on NASA’s quest to return astronauts to the moon came on Wednesday as part of the 2021 John J. Rhodes Lecture presented by Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University. 

Walker is currently at the International Space Station serving as mission specialist on the Crew-1 SpaceX Crew Dragon, named Resilience, which launched November 15, 2020. She also will serve as flight engineer on the International Space Station for Expedition 64.

The lecture, titled “Expanded Space Exploration: A Discussion with NASA Astronaut Dr. Shannon Walker and Ambassador Barbara Barrett,” was made possible by an uplink from the ISS to an auditorium in the honors college complex at the ASU Tempe campus. Due to novel coronavirus pandemic restrictions, the in-person audience was limited to 25 people while the event was live-streamed for remote viewers. 

Dressed in a blue, long-sleeved shirt and tan pants, her ponytail bobbing weightlessly from the back of her head and a microphone in her hand, Walker floated in front of a camera with the equipment-filled interior of an ISS research module behind her. The conversation happened as the ISS, at about 225 miles altitude, was zooming at approximately 17,500 miles per hour while passing over the northern United States. 

Walker spoke about space exploration, NASA’s work to get back to the moon and to Mars, what it’s like to be on the ISS, her professional trajectory from a NASA contractor to an astronaut, and the “firsts” she has accomplished in her career in a wide-ranging conversation with former ambassador to Finland and former United States Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett. 

Barrett is a trained astronaut who was a backup space flight participant for a flight to the International Space Station in 2010. She and Walker trained together at NASA.

Barrett asked Walker about the significance of the hundreds of experiments, including those focused on biology, biotechnology, physical sciences, earth sciences and more, taking place on the ISS, the only permanent microgravity laboratory. 

“We have so much going on up here. And a lot of what we do is just understanding how things work and how, like in the biological sciences, how the body works in space,” Walker said. 

“We do a lot of engineering research up here too, because ultimately our goal is to not just be confined to this space station but to go out in our solar system. We’re hoping to go back to the moon and build a base there. We want to go to Mars, send people there. So we really need to understand how to do it properly, efficiently, and sustainably, so we can see these other places,” she said. 

Walker added that research done on the ISS has applications on Earth and expands human knowledge of the universe.

Several space agencies, including those from the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada, and Europe contribute to the ISS partnership and send crew who all work together to complete each other’s research, she said. 

Watch the conversation with Walker and Barrett

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