Meet the young space experts in Cornwall helping with NASA's next Moon mission

The site, which is on the Lizard Peninsula, is strengthening the UK’s position as an international space power. Credit: BPM Media

Two young space experts are helping NASA's next mission to the Moon - from the heart of Cornwall.

23-year-olds Beth Sheppard, from Falmouth, and Tom Winterton, from Marazion, are both part of a team working at the satellite earth station Goonhilly.

The site, which is on the Lizard Peninsula, is strengthening the UK’s position as an international space power through its contributions to NASA’s pioneering Artemis programme.

Artemis 1 is the first in a series of missions and is due to send an uncrewed Orion capsule in orbit around the Moon and back to test systems ahead of a crewed flight in 2024.

Tom is a Deep Space Network mission operations engineer. Credit: BPM Media

A third mission will one day see the return of astronauts to the Moon.

The rocket was due to blast off on Tuesday, September 27 but had to be postponed due to severe weather in Florida.

Goonhilly will track the capsule to show its ability to support future, crewed NASA missions to the Moon and beyond.

What is Goonhilly?

Goonhilly is the world’s only commercial deep space ground station.

In 1969 the site was responsible for distributing live satellite feeds of the Apollo Moon landing to people around the world.

It is now positioned to provide tracking and communication support for key lunar and deep space missions; partnering with both private companies and space agencies.

Goonhilly is the world’s only commercial deep space ground station Credit: BPM Media

The GHY-6 deep space antenna - which also broadcast Live Aid to the world - will receive radio signals from the spacecraft, which will travel up to 448,000 km away from Earth over six weeks.

Beth and Tom are both part of a team that operates the antenna.

Tom said: "I couldn't have ever imagined a situation where growing up in Cornwall, one of the poorest places in Europe, I'd be involved with putting people on the Moon again."

It was thanks to a much-loved TV show that his love affair with the station began.

"My first visit here was probably when I was about 10 after getting a Blue Peter badge, which meant you could visit places like this for free," he said.

"Dad would always tell me about the Apollo missions growing up and I was very keen to know more about Goonhilly's Earth-Space connection in Cornwall. I was like 'oh my God, please take me'."

Tom added: "Being involved with small things is special as well - like moving the antenna, which are like big petals, knowing they're going to support Britain's first orbital launch. I just really appreciate being here."

His colleague Beth attended Hayle School and Truro College before studying physics at Oxford University.

23-year-old Beth is "over the moon" to be working on these projects. Credit: BPM Media

She said: "We configure Goonhilly 6 if we have a scheduled request to transmit or receive from a spacecraft.

"We uplink, which is to send a customer's data to their spacecraft, and downlink, which is receiving data back.

"The various satellites on the Artemis mission's Orion spacecraft carry out various tasks, such as mapping hydrogen and searching for ice on the Moon, and studying solar particles between the Earth and the Moon."

Beth added: "Cornwall isn't known for being progressive, but the space industry is one area in which it is.

"It will be amazing to be part of putting an astronaut on the Moon again - and it's amazing that I've been able to stay in Cornwall to do it."