Cambridge Professor to take part in record-setting NASA mission to the moon

Dr Gibbons taking part in zero gravity training

An astronaut has praised her work in Britain for potentially helping her fly to the moon.

NASA is intending to return to the surface of the moon through its Artemis programme, eventually creating a new lunar space station which would act as 'Gateway' to Mars.

The 'Moon to Mars' plan involves building a new space station in lunar orbit and establishing a habitable Moon base, which UK scientists are heavily involved with.

Dr Jenni Gibbons, an assistant Professor at the University of Cambridge, is part of the Artemis programme as a Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut.

She will provide ground support and be instrumental in developing astronaut procedures for Artemis II.

The mission will see a crewed flight beyond the Moon and will set a record for the furthest humans have ever been in space.

Dr Gibbons will be a back-up should her fellow Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen be unable to participate in November 2024.

Speaking to the University website, she said: "It's been a surprise, but a really wonderful journey that Cambridge has a lot to do with.

"I feel a tremendous amount of support from those people, and St Catharine's College, and I feel like that's one of the wonderful things that the University of Cambridge environment sets you up for – you have such a broad range of experiences and so much opportunity.

"I certainly didn’t expect this is where it would take me."

  • ITV News Anglia first met up with Dr Gibbons back in 2017 when she was undergoing selection training to become an astronaut.

She has already gained experience in mission support – working with fellow Cambridge alumna Kayla Barron on her first trip to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2021, aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon.

Former Cambridge student Kayla Barron on the space station Credit: NASA

"Kayla is one of my closest friends, so that was an absolute joy. I've been training with her since the beginning, so to be able to support her from the ground during such a capstone moment in her career, and be there for her family; it was just such a wonderful experience and is a great memory for me."

As the first crewed mission to the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972, Dr Gibbons says the significance of Artemis II is huge.

"First and foremost, I think we have to state just how big a shift this is. Since Apollo, we've been flying to the ISS and that’s been a very sustainable programme that has led to breakthroughs in multiple areas of science, like health research, and has been a test bed for technological development.

"But what Artemis II represents is a combination of the ground-breaking exploration of Apollo, and this more sustainable collaboration of the ISS."

Dr Gibbons' role in Artemis II means she will be eligible for future missions.

"I can't wait to fly when it’s my time, but right now I'm looking forward to seeing the photos the crew take during the mission. Imagine looking out of the window and seeing the Earth from a viewpoint no one else ever has", she said.

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