Will People Live on the Moon? (featuring Melissa McGuire)
The Artemis missions will send humans back to the moon, including the first woman and first person of color. Our guest this week is Melissa McGuire, the mission design manager for NASA's Gateway Power and Propulsion Element. Listen in to learn how this new method will make space travel more efficient. New episodes, now releasing every other Friday!
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Looking Up is transcribed using a combination of AI speech recognition and human editors. It may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
00:00:00 Dean Regas
Imagine you open your eyes to this weird sensation.
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You're floating through space, you're in microgravity.
00:00:10 Dean Regas
Scientists are surrounding you, conducting experiments and fixing up the space station.
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Yes, you're on the International Space Station, but something's not quite right.
00:00:24 Dean Regas
Lookout the window and instead of seeing the earth below, you're seeing the moon.
00:00:29 Dean Regas
You are in orbit around the moon and this could be your future because NASA is developing Gateway, it's Lunar Orbital station to act as kind of like a checkpoint to the lunar surface, and the even bigger Artemis program.
00:00:47 Dean Regas
Today we're joined by a scientist working to make this dream possible from the studios of Cincinnati Public Radio.
00:00:54 Dean Regas
I'm your host, Dean Regas, and this is looking up.
00:01:04 Dean Regas
The show that takes you deep into the cosmos or just to the telescope in your backyard to learn more about what makes this vast universe of ours so amazing.
00:01:17 Dean Regas
So NASA's Artemis missions are going to be sending people back to the moon, and the plans are to land the first woman and first person.
00:01:25 Dean Regas
Of color on.
00:01:26 Dean Regas
Moon, as well as establish the first long term human presence on the moon.
00:01:31 Dean Regas
Now I don't.
00:01:31 Dean Regas
Think it's going to be like we're going to see moon bases and people living there year round, but there's gonna be some amazing stuff including this gateway mission.
00:01:39 Dean Regas
That's gonna be kind of like this way station to go down to the moon.
00:01:43 Dean Regas
Back up to the moon and then a practice hopefully to send people to.
00:01:49 Dean Regas
So it's similar to International Space Station, but instead of circling the Earth, it will be circling around the moon.
00:01:55 Dean Regas
And the idea is to have it be like, you know, people living there, like all the time and the hardest.
00:02:01 Dean Regas
Part about going.
00:02:02 Dean Regas
Into space is really just getting off of the earth. The Earth's gravity is so intense.
00:02:08 Dean Regas
That just takes a tremendous amount of energy to break free of the gravity of the earth, and that's why you need these super gigantic big rockets.
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Seconds and counting T -.
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15 seconds guidance is internal.
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To send it up in parts and.
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Pieces and assemble it in space.
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I mean, think about that.
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Just putting things together up in space when you're traveling so fast to 10s of thousands of miles an hour and getting the parts together in the right places with the propellant to keep it going.
00:02:39 Dean Regas
Man, this is some serious rocket science stuff.
00:02:41 Dean Regas
These are like.
00:02:42 Dean Regas
Super nerds that are working on this and I'm like impressed like whenever some engineers split this kind of thing together, this is not easy.
00:02:51 Dean Regas
This is this is incredibly difficult and the idea of sending people up there too complicates things even more because everything up in space.
00:03:00 Dean Regas
Frankly wants to kill you.
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You have to work for everything.
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Being out in space, you have to bring all your food, all your water.
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You can't get hit by micrometeorites.
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You can't have system failures.
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You have to make sure the toilets are working.
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You know that kind of stuff.
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And I'm, I'm.
00:03:15 Dean Regas
I'm also dreaming like, you know, like when we do send people into space.
00:03:18 Dean Regas
I kind of like to hitch a ride with them myself.
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I like to.
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You know, mentally, emotionally, go with them.
00:03:27 Dean Regas
I'm never going to be asked to go into space and I don't know about you all, but I I think it would be pretty cool.
00:03:33 Dean Regas
But you gotta feel for the astronauts when you see them getting ready for this.
00:03:37 Dean Regas
When you see them training for this.
00:03:39 Dean Regas
So I can't wait to see what happens and I'm really excited to speak with our guest here today.
00:03:44 Dean Regas
Who is Melissa McGuire at the mission design?
00:03:47 Dean Regas
Manager for NASA's Gateway power and propulsion element. Oh, man. She's going to give us the lowdown on what's coming up with this project.
00:03:57 Dean Regas
Well, Melissa, thanks so much for joining me today.
00:03:59 Melissa McGuire
Well, thank you very much, Dean.
00:04:00 Melissa McGuire
It's my pleasure.
00:04:01 Dean Regas
This is a really exciting time for humans in space, as we're getting ready to send people back around to the moon with the Artemis missions and the Gateway project seems really fascinating.
00:04:13 Dean Regas
So what's your role in the development of the Gateway and Artemis?
00:04:18 Melissa McGuire
Alright, so to explain my role, I think I need to.
00:04:20 Melissa McGuire
Explain a little bit about the gateway and.
00:04:22 Melissa McGuire
What it is?
00:04:23 Melissa McGuire
The gateway is it's a space platform that we're going to be assembling in an orbit near the moon, called a near rectilinear Halo orbit, and that's a loosely semi stable orbit.
00:04:34 Melissa McGuire
It's an about the distance of the moon, so it's an orbit sort of about the Earth.
00:04:38 Melissa McGuire
But because it's near the moon, it's tugged by the moon, so it lives in this gravitational pull between the earth and the moon, and it's semi stable.
00:04:45 Melissa McGuire
So it requires A propulsion system to help keep whatever spacecraft is there there so that we don't drift either toward the moon or.
00:04:51 Melissa McGuire
Back toward the earth.
00:04:52 Melissa McGuire
So my role is.
00:04:54 Melissa McGuire
The mission design manager of something called the Power and propulsion element, and it's going to do what its name implies, it's going to provide power and propulsion for the gateway and the PPE.
00:05:05 Melissa McGuire
That's the power and propulsion element is going to take itself and a habitat.
00:05:08 Melissa McGuire
Those are the first two pieces of the gateway up to this destination orbit about the moon.
00:05:13 Melissa McGuire
And my role is that my team and I are responsible for designing the trajectory that it's going.
00:05:18 Melissa McGuire
To fly to get.
00:05:19 Melissa McGuire
Up there so.
00:05:20 Dean Regas
This will be essentially like a moon of the moon, which is not easy to do correct.
00:05:26 Melissa McGuire
That's correct, yes.
00:05:27 Melissa McGuire
But we're going to try to make use of that to keep down a propellant cost in order to put this platform near the moon to help and support the long duration lunar.
00:05:35 Melissa McGuire
Missions we have planned.
00:05:37 Dean Regas
And so how many individual modules will make up the, you know, the the final product, the completed gateway?
00:05:43 Melissa McGuire
So this is a good question.
00:05:44 Melissa McGuire
We're the 1st.
00:05:45 Melissa McGuire
Two, so the PPE and the Halo which is.
00:05:47 Melissa McGuire
The the habitat.
00:05:49 Melissa McGuire
They'll be somewhere less than 10 total modules.
00:05:53 Melissa McGuire
But that doesn't include the visiting vehicles.
00:05:56 Melissa McGuire
So, like our Orion that we just saw successfully fly as part of Artemis 1.
00:06:00 Melissa McGuire
We'll be coming up to the gateway and bringing astronauts up and taking them back home, and then because it's going to be supporting the the land admissions, our HLS spacecraft will be coming up and docking with the gateway transferring.
00:06:13 Melissa McGuire
Are not transferring assets being used as a stage?
00:06:16 Melissa McGuire
In place, and then we'll also just like the space station have logistics modules that will come up and bring supplies or take away things.
00:06:24 Melissa McGuire
So they'll be very active coming and going at the gateway.
00:06:28 Melissa McGuire
As well as the modules that are built up.
00:06:29 Dean Regas
So do you see this as kind of a a 4 runner to maybe a Mars mission?
00:06:35 Dean Regas
Is this a little practice or is this even more than that?
00:06:39 Melissa McGuire
So that's exactly the plan.
00:06:40 Melissa McGuire
So everything that we're doing right now is crafted in our our Moon to Mars goals as an agency.
00:06:46 Melissa McGuire
And so the gateway allows us to test out both technology and hardware as well as operations and usage.
00:06:53 Melissa McGuire
So how do we provide communications for a a long duration surface mission?
00:06:58 Melissa McGuire
What sort of things will our astronauts who are away from the Earth need, but also the hardware?
00:07:03 Melissa McGuire
So my my PPE, the power and propulsion element, has these really huge.
00:07:07 Melissa McGuire
Arrays and these new advanced electric propulsion thrusters, both of which we're testing out because they would be potential usage on the transportation systems that we build to take crew to and fro.
00:07:19 Melissa McGuire
From Mars, it's it is absolutely a.
00:07:21 Melissa McGuire
Dry run and.
00:07:22 Melissa McGuire
A test for all the things we're going to need to send people to Mars.
00:07:25 Dean Regas
So with with all your work with this and and seeing how all the systems are working and testing all that, would you go up yourself?
00:07:33 Dean Regas
Like, do you feel like you would like if they said, you know, we'll offer you a free trip up there to the moon, Mars or beyond?
00:07:40 Dean Regas
Would you say yes to all or yes to some, yes to any.
00:07:44 Dean Regas
Would you actually do it?
00:07:45 Melissa McGuire
I'm not necessarily a thrill seeker.
00:07:48 Melissa McGuire
Here by design, but I am a problem solver, so my entire career I've been working on the transportation side, the trajectory side of the problem for sending people beyond Earth, and I'm fully happy being the person on the ground who figured out how to do it.
00:08:04 Melissa McGuire
So make it possible for the folks who have that adventure aside and they're.
00:08:08 Melissa McGuire
They're willing to go and make.
00:08:09 Melissa McGuire
So no, I would stay here.
00:08:10 Melissa McGuire
But I would do everything in my power to to make those trips possible and be happy sitting here watching it on television with everybody else.
00:08:18 Dean Regas
Oh, I love it.
00:08:19 Dean Regas
Spoken like a true engineer.
00:08:20 Dean Regas
Ohh ohhh my gosh.
00:08:22 Dean Regas
Goes to my heart.
00:08:23 Dean Regas
I have a lot of engineers in my family so it's awesome to to see what's gonna be coming and what.
00:08:29 Dean Regas
What's the most exciting part about the missions that you're seeing that are that are gonna be unfolding?
00:08:34 Dean Regas
Do you think the public is going to really love?
00:08:36 Melissa McGuire
So I think similar to Artemis that just happened sort of in real time that everybody could just watch all of the the different phases of the mission as Orion made its successful flight around the Moon and back.
00:08:48 Melissa McGuire
And I think we have come so far in all of the technologies for communication and data sharing and video technologies and all of the things that we didn't necessarily have during the Apollo time.
00:08:59 Melissa McGuire
I think all of these missions are much more personal.
00:09:04 Melissa McGuire
They can be a part of everyone's lives.
00:09:06 Melissa McGuire
You can just live stream things on your phone and watch how it's happening.
00:09:09 Melissa McGuire
I I almost feel like we're in the 60s and early 70s.
00:09:13 Melissa McGuire
You sat in your living room television and you were a part of the mission and people felt like they're a part of what was going on.
00:09:20 Melissa McGuire
I think it's even more so now because we have all these ways to connect, and NASA is.
00:09:25 Melissa McGuire
Using all of those and everything that we're designing, so you know we're putting cameras everywhere and we're making sure we're data sharing and we've involved international partners across the world.
00:09:34 Melissa McGuire
We're not just doing this on our.
00:09:35 Melissa McGuire
Own so it.
00:09:36 Melissa McGuire
Really is a.
00:09:36 Melissa McGuire
A global effort.
00:09:38 Melissa McGuire
Where all of the successes are the successes.
00:09:41 Melissa McGuire
Of of everyone.
00:09:43 Melissa McGuire
All of humanity.
00:09:44 Melissa McGuire
It's something that I.
00:09:45 Melissa McGuire
Always hoped we would be able to get my entire career and I'm really, really excited.
00:09:49 Melissa McGuire
I still haven't come down from Artemis one.
00:09:52 Melissa McGuire
I just think that was fantastic.
00:09:53 Dean Regas
Ohh yeah, I mean human space travel is exciting, thrilling, dangerous.
00:10:00 Dean Regas
All the above.
00:10:00 Dean Regas
And and we're entering into this new phase, I think I'm with you.
All of it.
00:10:05 Dean Regas
I think I'll watch.
00:10:06 Dean Regas
I think that sounds better and hope all everything goes smoothly because I mean, this is stuff that you all been working on for a long time and tested what what is the the timetable if everything goes well when is launch and start and.
00:10:20 Dean Regas
And all this coming up.
00:10:22 Melissa McGuire
So we're looking toward the the mid.
00:10:24 Melissa McGuire
To latter half.
00:10:25 Melissa McGuire
Of this decade, for all the launches.
00:10:27 Melissa McGuire
So we're still, we're, we've actually started building hardware.
00:10:29 Melissa McGuire
So we do have some pieces built and we're still a couple years out or so before our launches.
00:10:36 Dean Regas
And I mean just, you know, between us, you, you walk around telling everybody you're a rocket scientist.
00:10:41 Dean Regas
00:10:42 Melissa McGuire
No, I don't.
00:10:44 Melissa McGuire
I don't do that.
00:10:45 Melissa McGuire
If people ask me, I will tell them what I work on.
00:10:47 Melissa McGuire
I'm very, very proud of it.
00:10:49 Melissa McGuire
And I think more than being proud of being a rocket scientist, I'm just honored and grateful that I get to work.
00:10:55 Melissa McGuire
With all of the really smart people, I get to work with, there are some really, really smart people who are very dedicated and very passionate and it's a joy to work with all of them.
00:11:03 Dean Regas
Ohh yeah, it must be like working at some amazing college campus with all these brilliant minds and astronauts walking around and engineers walking around and thanks so much for talking to us today.
00:11:12 Dean Regas
Melissa, this has been a lot of fun learning a lot more about Gateway and Artemis, and best of luck with it.
00:11:17 Dean Regas
We'll be watching and tuning in and seeing what adventures await.
00:11:21 Melissa McGuire
Well, thank you very much.
00:11:22 Melissa McGuire
This has been my pleasure.
00:11:23 Melissa McGuire
I love talking about all of the cool things that NASA is doing, so I'm.
00:11:27 Melissa McGuire
Looking forward to it too.
00:11:28 Dean Regas
So I've been speaking with Melissa McGuire, the mission design manager for NASA's Gateway Power and Propulsion ELO.
00:11:34 Dean Regas
Melissa, thanks again.
00:11:36 Melissa McGuire
Thank you so much.
00:11:37 Dean Regas
Looking up with Dean Regas is a production of synth sanati, public radio.
00:11:41 Dean Regas
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00:11:47 Dean Regas
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00:11:51 Dean Regas
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00:11:53 Dean Regas
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00:11:57 Dean Regas
I'm Dean Regas and keep looking up.