Three Stanford alums among NASA Artemis astronauts heading to the moon

On Dec. 9, NASA announced the members of the Artemis team of astronauts, who will participate in missions on and around the moon. Three Stanford alumni – NICOLE MANN, MS ’01; KATE RUBINS, PhD ’06; and JESSICA WATKINS, BS ’10 – are among the 18 astronauts chosen to be part of the “Artemis Team.”

According to the press release from NASA, the Artemis program will “land the first woman and next man on the moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable human lunar presence by the end of the decade.”

Jessica Watkins
Jessica Watkins is one of three Stanford alumni selected for NASA’s next mission to the moon. (Courtesy of NASA)

Mann was born in Petaluma, California, and grew up in nearby Rohnert Park. She received a Master of Science degree from Stanford in mechanical engineering with a specialty in fluid mechanics in 2001 and joined the astronaut corps in 2013. According to NASA, Mann is currently training for the first crew flight test of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft.

Rubins was raised in Napa, California, and earned her doctorate in cancer biology from the School of Medicine in 2006. She was chosen as an astronaut in 2009. She has flown aboard the International Space Station twice. During those flights, Rubins performed two spacewalks – totaling 12 hours, 46 minutes – and was the first person to sequence DNA in space. She has logged 115 days in space.

Watkins, from Lafayette, Colorado, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in geological and environmental sciences from Stanford in 2010. She interned at NASA’s Ames Research Center and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and was a member of the science team for the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. She joined the astronaut corps in 2017. A Stanford Earth story from 2018 reported that “one of Watkins’ fondest memories at Stanford is the work she did with Don Lowe, whom she met during her junior year when she was interning at nearby NASA Ames and exploring the feasibility of simulating Martian soil for a research project.”

The Artemis program – which is named for the twin sister of the god Apollo, the namesake of NASA’s first mission on the moon – aims to conduct experiments and investigations on the moon’s surface. There is also a focus on finding and using resources on the moon, such as water or new materials, and using the return of humans to the moon to prepare for future human missions to Mars.

More information about the entire Artemis team is available here.