Essex woman who dreamed of being an astronaut helps build NASA rocket to take people to the Moon

  • Watch David Whiteley's interview with Sian Cleaver

A woman who dreamed of being an astronaut as a child growing up in Essex is now playing a key role in a new mission to land people on the Moon.

Sian Cleaver, a former pupil at Chelmsford County High School for Girls, is working on the Artemis project for NASA.

The 32-year-old physics and astronomy graduate worked for Airbus in Portsmouth and Stevenage before moving to Bremen in Germany.

"I always knew that I wanted to work in the space industry," said Ms Cleaver. "That was a dream of mine from a very young age - four or five years old.

"I think growing up I didn't quite realise the opportunities that existed in Europe and in the UK."

In March, Nasa and the European Space Agency hope to launch the first test flight of the Artemis mission, which will take astronauts back to the lunar surface for the first time in 50 years.

Touchdown on the Moon is scheduled for 2025.

Sian Cleaver is helping to build the European Service Module, a part of the rocket which will take astronauts to the Moon. Credit: European Space Agency

Ms Cleaver is an industrial manager who is helping to build a section of the rocket designed by Airbus called the European Service Module.

"It's a really important part," she said. "It's the service module, so it's the part that sits just behind the crew module where the astronauts will be.

"Our module provides all of the air, all of the water, the temperature control that the astronauts need to survive, but also really importantly it provides the propulsion.

"We have a big propulsion system on board and that's what will propel the astronauts on their journey towards the moon.

"We have hundreds of different sub-contractors who are providing different parts, different sub-systems.

"My job is to make sure all of those come on time and they are good enough quality and exactly to our specifications, so ultimately we can ship our module to our friends in the US exactly on time."

The Artemis mission hopes to land people on the surface of the Moon by 2025. Credit: European Space Agency

The Artemis mission will be the first time a human has landed on the Moon since the Apollo 17 flight in 1972, three years after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first set foot on it.

The mission is also planning a semi-permanent presence on the lunar surface and using the Moon as a stepping stone for further exploration to Mars.

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Ms Cleaver said: "I think it's incredible to be part of a mission as exciting as this because it's been such a long time since we went to the Moon with the Apollo missions and there are generations of people that missed out on that.

"We're really exposing space to a whole new generation of people, hopefully sparking more interest in the industry and just doing something that will captivate the attention of the whole earth."

An artist's impression of the rocket that will take astronauts to the Moon in 2025. Credit: European Space Agency