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NASA Astronaut Kayla Barron (Credit: NASA/Bill Stafford)

Last week, NASA announced its selection for the Artemis Team, a group that work under the Artemis program whose aim is to send the first woman and next man to the moon in 2024.

“We are incredibly grateful for the president and vice president’s support of the Artemis program, as well as the bipartisan support for all of NASA’s science, aeronautics research, technology development, and human exploration goals,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in the release. “As a result, we’re excited to share this next step in exploration – naming the Artemis Team of astronauts who will lead the way, which includes the first woman and next man to walk on the lunar surface.”

Members of the Artemis Team come from a variety of backgrounds, expertise and experiences, the release outlined. The team not only is working to get to the moon but also aims to develop a sustainable human lunar presence.

One of the team’s astronauts is Kayla Barron from Richland, Washington. She became an astronaut in 2017. Barron has an expansive background with a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering as well as a master’s degree in nuclear engineering.

On top of all that, she’s a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy and, as a submarine warfare officer, Barron was part of the first class of women commissioned into the submarine community.

But being an astronaut was not always in her deck of cards.

“I didn’t grow up imagining myself capable of something like that,” Barron said. “It’s not a role I really ever saw myself ever doing, but my time on the submarine taught me how to work on a team in a really complex environment.”

While looking for where to take her career next, Barron had the opportunity to meet an astronaut and learned that her experience on the submarine sounded much like the practices of an astronaut.

“Everything she told me reminded me of my time on the submarine, and that’s when it first clicked, like, ‘Oh my gosh, maybe this is something I could do,’” said Barron. “It was a role I could finally imagine myself in and once I did, I couldn’t get it out of my head. That’s what really inspired me, and I never thought in a million years it would work out.”

It’s been a rapid ride since joining the organization. Barron originally started training in preparation to go to the International Space Station, something she still hopes to do one day, but gears have since shifted to align with Artemis’ goal.

“We’re really starting to think about what would be different about working on the moon,” Barron said. “There is a lot that is different. We have a ton of experience from the shuttle era and also our 20 years now of continuous human presence on the space station. But living on the surface of the moon is going to be a whole different can of worms.”

The team is working to map out what technology would be necessary, what operations capabilities are needed and how training for that environment will differ, Barron explained.

The training can come in various forms, such as NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. NASA has what is essentially a giant swimming pool with a scale model of the International Space Station at the bottom. Donned in their equipment, astronauts dive to the bottom and practice working in the simulated microgravity.

But with the focus being on the moon this time, they have to work to refine the swimming pool training to reflect the gravitational differences, Barron explained.

While Barron has yet to train in the simulation, she has had other experiences including field geology training. This helps to teach astronauts how to piece together the history of an area based on its various formations.

“I’m really looking forward to continuing in that kind of training and then someday actually use it on the moon,” Barron said.

Barron finds it inspirational to be a part of the organization and has had great support from the men and women she’s around. NASA brings the best people together, Barron said.

Everyone brings the best versions of themselves at the table to accomplish their tasks.

“It’s just so inspiring to be a part of a mission-driven organization where everyone shows up to work every day knowing what they’re trying to accomplish,” Barron said. “It’s such an honor to work with people like that and contribute in your own little way to that larger mission.”

As for the best advice she could give to anyone out there interested in being an astronaut, Barron recommends learning to work in a team and to always be on the lookout for tasks that are challenging yet still interesting.

“You want to find things that are challenging because you want to continue to develop. You always want to be pushing yourself, but if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, that process will be fun even though it’s hard,” Barron said. “Another thing I’d add is to really invest in learning how to work on a team because we don’t accomplish anything as astronauts by ourselves.”

Additional members, including international partners, will be joining the mission as needed, the release explained. NASA hopes what is learned on and around the moon will eventually aid it in getting to Mars. More information and a full look at the team can be found at https://www.nasa.gov/specials/artemis-team/.

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