NASA today named the first 18 astronauts of its “Artemis Team” for missions to the moon — and two of the teammates trace their roots to Washington state.
One of the pair, Anne McClain, was born in Spokane and went on to serve a six-month stint aboard the International Space Station in 2018-2019. She took on two spacewalks during her time in orbit, but because of a flap over spacesuit sizes, she narrowly missed out on being part of a high-profile, all-woman spacewalk.
Now she has another chance at making history, as one of the candidates to become the first woman to set foot on the moon.
She played down the gender angle during a news briefing today.
“When I was up on space station, we never even thought about genders or races or religions — or nationalities, even — until somebody asked us about them,” McClain said through a mask that she wore to counter the COVID-19 pandemic. “So it has actually made us reflect on the reasons, and my takeaway is that the strongest teams are the most diverse teams.”
The other woman on the team with Washington state roots is Kayla Barron, who considers Richland her hometown and was named to the astronaut corps in 2017. She hasn’t yet been in space, but she has experience with living in close quarters by virtue of her service as a Navy submarine warfare officer.
Barron also has another connection to the Seattle tech community: She earned her master’s degree in nuclear engineering at the University of Cambridge, thanks to a scholarship funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The first Artemis astronauts were introduced by Vice President Mike Pence during a meeting of the National Space Council, held today at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.