Astronaut Kate Rubins on “Face the Nation,” Aug. 28, 2022

The following is a transcript of an interview with astronaut and Artemis team member Kate Rubins that aired Sunday, August 28, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”

TYPIST GARRETT: Joining us now is astronaut Kate Rubins, a candidate for a future Artemis crewed mission. It’s coming to us from the Kennedy Space Center. Dr. Rubins, good morning. This is a test flight. What are you looking for in terms of security as you assess what we’re going to see in the coming days?

Dr. KATE RUBINS: Good morning, great to be with you. As you said, this is a test flight. And so one of the reasons we test before we put people on top of this incredible machine is to really push the envelope. So from an engineering perspective, one of our main goals is to look at the heat shield. To get the heat shield in that 5,000 degree heating and- and to check all our targets around the moon, we have to do this test launch. And so we look for things like load to exit, launch. And then we’re really into reentry for the heat shield and capsule recovery.

BIG GARRETT: And for those who remember, like me, Apollo, what’s the difference between the heat shield stresses then and the heat shield pressure now?

Dr. RUBINS: Yes, we have similar profiles and similar reentry speeds. But the materials are completely different. So, you know, we’ve had 50 years in the interim to adopt many of these modern advances in materials science. I’m working on the spacesuits and we’re actually customizing a lot of them, as well as our new spacesuit design.

ELDER GARRETT: I mentioned that I remember Apollo, I don’t remember Mercury, but I do remember all the national excitement about the space exploration projects, then everything was almost entirely led by white men. There’s more diversity, for women and for people of color at NASA now, talk about the element that includes women like you at Artemis, and everything else that NASA is doing right now.

Dr. RUBBINS: Yeah, I think one of the great things about the astronaut corps these days is that we don’t look at it in terms of categories anymore. We have such a diverse and talented workforce. And you see it across NASA, if you look at all the centers in the US. So our astronaut class, we have a variety of backgrounds. You know, we have scientists, engineers, fighter pilots, we have military and civilians. We, of course, opened those doors for 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 to the program.

PORTMAN GARRETT: And Dr. Rubins for those who might say, Yeah, it’s been 50 years since we’ve been on the moon, should we go back? And is this the only thing we are trying to achieve? And doesn’t it feel a bit repetitive? What would you say to them?

Dr. RUBINS: That’s a very good question. And we have to come back, we will come back in a completely different way. So the first part of this program is really to establish a viable lunar presence on the lunar surface, and then both in orbit around the moon, that helps us prepare for Mars, we really need to learn how to operate long term into deep space to be able to explore, and the places we go are incredibly diverse. So Apollo focused on a kind of very easy access to the equatorial region, we face the challenge of going to the polar regions, these permanently shadowed regions, it’s always in the dark. There we found water ice. And that ice is so important for things like making fuel for a mission to Mars. And many of the scientific discoveries, we have volatile compounds in which water ice could unlock many things about how the earth and our solar system formed.

MAJOR GARRETT: And for a layman like me, should we think about the Moon as a possible launch pad for this eventual exploration of Mars?

Dr. RUBINS: Sure, sure, it could be, you know, it’s also a place where we’ll probably take vehicles and do long-term deep space checks before we actually commit to a trip to Mars. And it’s also where we’ll learn how to do extensive surface work. This is how we make new planetary suits. We learn how we can make people live in rovers, how they can do a human-robotic partnership to uncover a lot of land and explore a lot more. And what it’s – what it’s like to actually have that permanent presence on another planetary body.

TERMINAL GARRETT: So you’re a candidate to be one of those Artemis astronauts. Just personally, what will tomorrow be like for you? The level of your personal scientific anticipation and perhaps concern?

Dr. RUBINS: Yeah, we were talking about it with the other astronauts that are here. And they all said, you know, when, when it’s the launch, you get more and more calm as the launch gets closer, because you’re trained in this, you know, your procedures, you’re in the sim for 1000 hours, so I mean, you’re just completely calm until the moment of take-off. With that, we get more and more nervous as we go along. I think we’re all so excited about it. It’s a test flight. So, you know, we’re tempering our expectations. We have really good weather in Florida and stuff like that. But-but we are very excited and we can feel the excitement building.

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. RUBBINS: Absolutely, I really see that when I go talk to kids in classrooms across the US and you tell them you know, we’re going to the moon. And it’s something that we haven’t had in decades in terms of something that inspires kids and provides that kind of exploration activity that the whole world can look for.

MAJOR GARRETT: Dr. Kate Rubins, thank you so much. CBS News will carry a special report tomorrow around 8:30 a.m. when the missile is expected to launch, and we’ll be right back.

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