Graduate from Durham University plays key role in helping Artemis rocket reach moon

Sian Cleaver, 32, who grew up in Chelmsford, is helping in a new mission to land astronauts on the Moon.
Sian Cleaver graduated from Durham University with a master's degree in physics and astronomy. Credit: ITV News

A graduate from Durham University has revealed her excitement at being involved in the Artemis 1 mission, which marks the next chapter in taking humans back to the moon.

Sian Cleaver is an Airbus Engineer and industrial manager of the Airbus-built European Service Module (ESM).

The Artemis 1 mission will see the first launch of the new 322ft tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which NASA says is the world's most powerful rocket to date.

It will take the Orion capsule, powered by the ESM into the moon's orbit.

Sian Cleaver, who graduated from Durham University with a masters degree in physics and astronomy, said: "I'm ridiculously excited, and I think everybody on the team is.

"There's years and years of a labour of love into this project.

"This is the first time that we will have seen one of our European service modules flying in space and going to the moon.

"I think a lot of us couldn't quite believe it - we've now got the go for launch.

"Now, I think it's really sinking in that this is reality, this is happening, and it's going to really start this whole new chapter of space exploration, and going to the moon.

"We're on the brink of something really exciting now."

The flight is the first in the agency's Artemis programme and will be uncrewed this time.

However, there will be astronauts on board for subsequent missions, with the first crewed flight into space scheduled for 2024.

The rocket will be un-crewed for the August mission but future missions will be manned. Credit: PA

Ms Cleaver explained that the last time humans went to the moon, some 50 years ago, it was about proving that it could be done whereas the new mission is about proving people can go there for longer and more sustainably.

It will also assess whether some infrastructure can be built on and around the moon, allowing humans to survive on another planetary body.

Now in her 30s, Ms Cleaver first visited the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida when she was just eight years old and as a child dreamt about being involved in human spaceflight.

Sian Cleaver as child, with her sister at Kennedy Space Centre in the USA. Credit: Family photo

Her role in building the ESM involved making sure that all of the equipment and the subsystems came together at exactly the right time.

Speaking of attending the launch, she said: "I am so excited to be there.

"It is going to be, for me personally, a really special moment to be back there after so long. And now to actually work in the space industry, I still haven't quite got my head around it really, that I've achieved something that I wanted to do since I was 15 or so."

She added: "It's pretty amazing that even at this stage of my career, 10 years into Airbus, that I'm working on essentially my dream mission."

The mission duration is 42 days, 3 hours, and 20 minutes, and in total it will travel 1.3 million miles, before splashing down on October 10.

The UK is part of the Artemis programme, making contributions to the Lunar Gateway, a space station currently in development with the European Space Agency, working alongside the US, Europe, Canada and Japan.