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Artemis Moon Tools

Season 1Episode 155Jul 31, 2020

Trevor Graff and Adam Naids, Project Manager for exploration science and Deputy Project Manager for Artemis geology tools, respectively, share their expertise on the tools needed for the Moon’s unique terrain when we visit our neighboring satellite during Artemis missions. HWHAP Episode 155.

Artemis Moon Tools

Artemis Moon Tools

If you’re fascinated by the idea of humans traveling through space and curious about how that all works, you’ve come to the right place.

“Houston We Have a Podcast” is the official podcast of the NASA Johnson Space Center from Houston, Texas, home for NASA’s astronauts and Mission Control Center. Listen to the brightest minds of America’s space agency – astronauts, engineers, scientists and program leaders – discuss exciting topics in engineering, science and technology, sharing their personal stories and expertise on every aspect of human spaceflight. Learn more about how the work being done will help send humans forward to the Moon and on to Mars in the Artemis program.

On Episode 155, Trevor Graff and Adam Naids, Project Manager for exploration science and Deputy Project Manager for Artemis geology tools, respectively, share their expertise on the tools needed for the Moon’s unique terrain when we visit our neighboring satellite during Artemis missions. This episode was recorded on June 24, 2020.

Houston, we have a podcast


Gary Jordan (Host): Houston, we have a podcast. Welcome to the official podcast of the NASA Johnson Space Center, Episode 155, “Artemis Moon Tools.” I’m Gary Jordan, and I’ll be your host today. On this podcast, we bring in the experts, scientists, engineers, astronauts, all to let you know what’s going on in the world of human spaceflight. We are returning human presence to the Moon, this time in a sustainable way through the Artemis program. Humans will soon be exploring the surface of the Moon, but this time in different and interesting locations near the lunar poles and for longer periods of time, all with the goal in mind of learning more about the Moon and how to live and work on Mars. And while we’re improving the techniques of living and working on the Moon, we have a lot of exploring to do. These interesting locations on the Moon can help us understand more about our planet and its history, and a better understanding of what makes up the Moon’s surface could improve how we live off of its resources. Now, with new places to explore come new tools we need to develop in order to explore them and new challenges that we need to overcome. So, to describe these new tools that will be used for Artemis are Trevor Graff and Adam Naids. Trevor is the Jacobs Chief Scientist and Project Manager for exploration science within the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division, or ARES, here at the Johnson Space Center. He describes the interesting geology of these locations on the Moon and the challenges of collecting samples. Adam is the Deputy Project Manager for Artemis geology tools. He’s the one designing the tools to overcome these challenges and be user-friendly to future moonwalkers. So, here we go, the next generation of tools for the next generation of moonwalkers with Trevor Graff and Adam Naids. Enjoy.

[ Music]

Host: Trevor and Adam, thanks so much for coming on Houston We Have a Podcast today.

Adam Naids: Yeah, thanks for having us.

Trevor Graff: Glad to be here.

Host: This is quite a topic here, “Artemis Moon Tools.” Now, honestly, I’ll be completely honest, I really don’t know too much about the history of tools. So, I kind of want to start with that, but before we even get to that, I want to know just who we’re talking to, because we are doing a little bit of the tool side and a little bit of the science side. Adam, we’ll start with you. Tell us about yourself and what you do.

Adam Naids: Yeah, Gary, so I’m the Deputy Project Manager for the Artemis geology tools, and so I help to lead a team of people who are designing and building and testing the next generation tools that we’re going to send to the Moon to bring back samples. I — my degree was in engineering physics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and I’m fortunate to be in the position I’m in and excited to be working on such an awesome project.

Host: Yeah, what a title, man, working on future tools deputy manager, very, very cool. And you started as a co-op like me, and if I remember correctly, we created a little video called “NASA Johnson Style,” I think it’s got a couple hits on YouTube.

Adam Naids: Yeah, just a couple of hits. Gary, that was an amazing time, and it was really cool to share what we’re doing with the public, and so I’m excited to do that again for a different topic.

Host: Very cool, alright. Well, it’s good to at least hear your voice again during this pandemic, but I’m glad to have you on. Now, Trevor, how about you? A little bit about yourself.

Trevor Graff:Yeah, thanks, Gary. Jacobs Chief Scientist and Project Manager for like exploration science-related things within the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Division, or ARES, here at JSC. And so, I’m — for the tool’s projects, I’m kind of the science liaison to Adam’s team to help infuse the science into the types of tools that Adam and his team are building. I started at JSC almost well over 20 years ago as an intern and then went off to get my graduate degree at Arizona State University, where I worked on Mars rovers for quite a bit after that. So, I did a lot with the Mars rovers and building instrumentation for the Mars rovers and commanding some instruments on the Mars rovers, and so I found my way back to JSC seven or eight years ago, and I’ve been working in ARES at JSC and just getting more and more involved in the human side and the aspects of science that play into that. So, this tools project has been super exciting to get involved in, thinking about, you know, the application of using the tools and doing science on the Moon once again.

Host: I’m curious to hear more about that. You said more on the human side of science. So, talk about that relationship, the how geology meets the human side.

Trevor Graff: Yeah, so, you know, I talked about the Mars rover. So, a lot of what I’ve been doing is, you know, the robotic side of that is like using the Mars rovers as robotic geology explorers on the surface of Mars. And so, it’s very interesting for me to like make this flip from, you know, the slow pace and the detailed science that the robotic instruments have been doing on the surface of Mars to thinking about how humans can use the tools and do the sample collection and how rapid that makes the process and how integrative that can be. And so, that slip from the robotic world that — where my head has been for a number of years with Mars is really fun to now think about the human aspect of, you know, humans being the explorers and doing that again on the lunar surface is really exciting here in the next few years.

Host: Now, Trevor, you got a little taste of this on an undersea mission called [NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations] NEEMO. Can you describe a little bit what that is and what you did and how that kind of relates to what you’re talking about?

Trevor Graff: Sure. So, NEEMO is this project that occurs off the coast of Florida at an underwater habitat that sits down at 62 feet in the sand off the coast, about five kilometers off of Key Largo. And so, NEEMO itself is NASA’s extreme environment mission operations, and [inaudible] analog with [inaudible] scientists and engineers down to that habitat to live and work, as they are, you know, analogous to space. So, the habitat itself is kind of the size of like an ISS node, and then we go from the habitat out into the surrounding area or the reef and do science. And so, we do that all analogous of the types of things that we would do on the lunar surface or on the Mars surface, and we talk to a backroom team and Mission Control. And so, it’s really a fantastic analog for the types of things that we do or thinking about doing, you know, on other planetary surfaces. So, I had the opportunity in 2017 to be part of one of those crews on the NEEMO cruise, so NEEMO 22 and got an awesome opportunity to be part of that. And that’s also, you know, through this process of NEEMO is where kind of me and Adam started to meet and started talking about tools. So, a lot of these tool things that we’ve talked about today initiated because of analog missions, like NEEMO or [Desert Research and Technology Studies] Desert RATS and things like that in the past. So, it’s fun to see how this has grown over the years.

Host: That is incredible. I’m trying to imagine what it’s like to live underwater. How would you describe it to someone who has no idea what it’s like to live in a confined space, and you can even call it an extreme environment for its own reasons, because it is — it’s not just, you know, “I’m tired of being here, I’m going to walk out the door.” It’s for a reason that you’re underwater.

Trevor Graff: Yeah, that’s exactly that, Gary. It’s very, very analogous to space, just because you need the life support system to be even able to survive, right? So, in the habitat or when you go out in the water column and go out on these simulated EVAs, you need that life support system, and it makes it extreme, right? There’s all the things that you need to think about to stay safe, and there’s all the things that you need to think about to be able to communicate well as a team, as a crew, all the way back to mission control. And so, you know, it was a fantastic opportunity to live and work down there. I’m passionate about diving and things like that. So, it really scratched the itch for me for numerous reasons, being, you know, a space nerd but then also love and passionate about diving. And so, it’s just fantastic and it — the biggest takeaway I had just looking out the window of the habitat, you know, each day is how unique our Earth is, our environment is, and how unique all the creatures are, you know, looking out the window at the fish life and how it changes throughout the day and things like that were just fantastic, and it was an awesome opportunity.

Host: What a great experience, unbelievable, and, Adam, you said you — or Trevor mentioned that he kind of met you in the NEEMO world. Tell me about your experience.

Adam Naids: Yeah, so the last, I mean, decade or more we’ve been thinking about going back to the Moon and going to Mars and how we would do that. And so, NEEMO has been a place where we’ve been able to think about those things, build prototypes, and put it into action and learn. And so, I’ve been a part of six NEEMO missions now, and it’s just been an awesome opportunity, as Trevor said, to think about these things, to cross train in other disciplines, like, for me, cross training and scientists and understanding what they care about and cross training in operations and what it means to operate the tools. And so, it’s just been a really amazing experience there to just be ready for a moment like this, where now we’ve been charged with going back to the Moon for Artemis and then onto Mars, and we just — now we’re just taking what we’ve learned, taking those relationships that we’ve built and putting it into action to do it for real.

Host: You talked about we’re thinking about the Moon, and it’s happening right now, and here’s the thing, we’ve been to the Moon before, right? So, this is — we’re talking about the Apollo era. We’re talking about the ’70s. Let’s take a journey through history, Adam. Take us through some of the early Apollo era collection tools, their purpose, and a little bit about what we have already done in the past.

Adam Naids: Yeah, I’m happy to do that. You know, we’ve been to the Moon six times, and we’ve learned a lot each one of those missions. Early on, you know, science wasn’t necessarily embedded in the Apollo program, and it took some fighting to make that happen, or I should say lobbying, and it obviously became a kind of cornerstone of the program throughout. And so, bringing back samples is huge, a huge part of those science objectives. They also brought instruments and other — and did some other studies while they were on the Moon, but they brought back samples. And so, they developed a suite of tools to do that. Early on, there was just a couple of tools, but that repertoire increased throughout the missions. Some of the tools that we brought were things like a shovel or a scoop, these things called tongs, which are just grabbers that you can use to pick up rocks off of the ground. We brought things like core tubes to get cylindrical samples of the soil of the lunar regolith, I should say, to bring back, to study the layers of the Moon. And so, those are just a couple of the early tools that were used, and they were able to bring back some great samples that are still being studied today.

Host: Now, they sound kind of simple, right, when you say it. You’re talking scoops and shovels, I have those in my garage right now, but what is the key element when you’re designing a tool that makes it something that is usable on a different planetary or Moon lunar surface?

Adam Naids: Yeah, that’s a great question, Gary. I get that a lot. “Hey, you’re just making a hammer, like what’s so hard about making a space hammer? Like, why don’t you just go to your local hardware store and fly that?” There’s a couple of reasons. One is the environmental conditions. So, temperature being a major one, we have some temperature extremes that we have to account for. The other thing is designing for an astronaut in a spacesuit, and the spacesuit is essentially a balloon, and you have to squeeze against that balloon every time you grab something. And so, we need to make — we need to think about human factors a lot and ensuring that these tools are easy to use, and they can be used without causing the astronaut a lot of pain or exertion, and that way they can do more. The last part of this has to do with contamination. So, what we want to do for the scientists across the world is bring back samples that are pristine, that aren’t contaminated with things that aren’t from the Moon. And so, that is a major driver for everything that we do on the ground in terms of processing the tools, selecting the materials for the tools. So, we can only use certain materials. We have to make sure that our material finishes — are approved by the science community. We have to go through a cleaning process to make sure that we remove any contaminants from the tools, and then we have to maintain that cleanliness along the way. And so, that’s something we don’t have a lot of experience with in our recent history. So, we’re spending a lot of time getting smart on that right now.

Host: Now, Trevor, I’m going to toss it over to you. We’re talking about some — these tools that are designed for the Moon. They sound relatively simple. Talk about the geological perspective of this, why you use these tools, perhaps in the field on Earth and then why you want them for the Moon?

Trevor Graff: Yeah, well, Adam hit on, you know, a lot of things there. Those tools are kind of what I would use if I go out in the field today to, you know, collect rocks and samples to do terrestrial or Earth-based, you know, study. And so, you know, I’m a geologist at heart. So, I love my rock hammer and stuff, and so that’s always in my backpack when I go out to do fieldwork. And so, when we go to think about doing that type of stuff on another planetary body, like the Moon and or eventually on to Mars, those are the things, those, you know, those generally simple tools, if you will, are part of that kit that is really going to help us collect the samples, as Adam said, to get them back in a pristine state, so that we can do the scientific research back here in the labs that we have, both at JSC but also around the world to study these samples and learn the scientific knowledge that are our objectives of going back to the surface. And so, you know, of that, I think there’s 382 kilograms or 840 some pounds of lunar rocks and soil and regolith that we brought back during the Apollo era. That has been a wealth, a treasure trove of scientific knowledge that people have been working on for decades and learning a lot about not only the Moon but the solar system and our Earth planetary system, the Earth/Moon system. And so, those samples become critical to get back in as pristine a state that we can, and one of the other things to mention on that, you know, Adam’s tool or tool team is also building beyond just the hammers and the rakes and the scoops and the tongs is the containers to package these things in. And that’s not an easy task either, right? So, there’s the bags, and then there’s what they used to call it during the Apollo days, a rock box, and then there’s, you know, stowage bags and the containers to bring all this stuff back, not only when you’re out on EVA and sampling, but, you know, it’s got to go into the HLS system or the Human Landing System and then back on Orion and back, you know, to Earth and ultimately get into building 31, where our lunar sample collection is and, you know, and then gets distributed from there. So, a lot to think about on the return aspects and the containers that the samples go in.

Host: For a non-geologist like myself, you know, you’re looking out on the Moon and some of these pictures, and it just looks like a field of gray. But I know that from your eye, from a geological perspective, there is important elements to all these different pieces. I know a story from some of the early Apollo missions, I think it was Neil Armstrong, filled up a container full of rocks and then found that there was empty space, so he started scooping some soil in there, some loose dirt, and that ended up being super valuable. So, talk about the different things that we can find on the Moon, even something, some lessons learned from Apollo about what things we find important, some of these core tubes, some rocks, some soil. What’s cool about all these things?

Trevor Graff: Yeah, I mean, the Moon looks gray at first blush, and, you know, but there is some really unique things, you know, like you said, you know, back to the Apollo mission, again, that they found that were very unique like the, you know, the orange soil for Apollo 17 or the, you know, a lot of impact debris and things like that from different missions. And so, you know, if you look up at the Moon, you see, you know, the light and dark areas, and so the lighter surface areas are these lunar highlands, and the darker places are the mare. And so, these highlands are mostly what geologists call anorthosite or anorthositic in composition, and the mare, those darker places when you look up the Moon are basaltic, so, but that’s a very general simplimatic way of looking at it. You know, once you get on the surface, you can find all kinds of, you know, geologic unique things to study that tell us, like I said, about our solar system as a whole, tell us about the Earth/Moon system, and tell us about, you know, different scientific applications for fundamental physics and things like that. So, getting back to the surface in new unique places and doing, you know, the field work that we’re used to doing here on Earth, but applying that to the Moon and all those lessons learned from Apollo all apply in learning more about, you know, our solar system and beyond.

Host: Now, Adam, some of these tools, you mentioned early on, that these tools were, you know, the science part came a little bit later in the Apollo mission. I think, you know, during — the goal was really to get to the surface of the Moon to get those boot prints, but we must have learned a lot from designing the tools, what worked, what didn’t work. So, what are we taking from the Apollo missions and then applying to Artemis?

Adam Naids: Yeah, great question. So, leading into this work, really, for the last, you know, decade, we’ve been doing some research about Apollo. What did they do? What did they learn? Just at a lower level. Now that we’re funded to start developing the tools for Artemis, we kicked that into overdrive. And so, we worked with Trevor and his organization who has a data center with a lot of historical documents from Apollo, and we spent lots of time reading documents in there. We reached out to the JSC History Office to go and find whatever documents related to tools we possibly could and just trying to get — gather as much — soak in as much knowledge as we could about what they did and what worked well. There was pretty good recordkeeping. They did debriefs for each mission, and we can find quotes from the astronauts about what issues that they had with tools and things that they liked and disliked. So, we really soaked all of that in and kind of collected that information per tool and are then literally handing those documents to our designers now to implement some of those things. And we get a question — this question a lot where people say, “well, why spend money designing new tools, let’s just fly the Apollo ones, like we have the drawings, just build those and fly those?” And then we also get the question that’s like, “well, let’s make super fancy tools, this the 21st century, you know? Let’s make them way better than Apollo,” and to — in reality, we’re doing a little bit of both. For example, there’s a tool called the drive tube, and that you — that they hammered into the ground to collect a core sample. That tool evolved multiple times throughout the six Apollo missions that landed on the Moon, and we can see that, and then it remains steady the last couple of missions. So, it appears that they got that design right, and it worked the way they wanted it to. So, why should we change that? And so, that’s kind of a starting point for us — is let’s see what we can remake this design, let’s go test it in the new environment of the poles and see if that works and then make any other adjustments based upon, you know, modern manufacturing practices or something like that. And then there’s other things that just that are simple but deserve another look, and, you know, with everything that we know, you know, 60 years later, we can implement that to make the tools lighter, more efficient, easier to use. And so, we’re trying to kind of do a combination of that to make this toolkit really useful and easy for the astronauts.

Host: Wonderful. This is so exciting. Let’s jump right to Artemis. Trevor, when we’re doing an Artemis mission, what is the lay of the land there? How does it compare to Apollo? What are the interesting parts of these landing sites, that you as a geologist want to explore?

Trevor Graff: Yeah, so Artemis has us really excited to get to the surface near the South Pole, like we’ve been directed to go. And so, you know, I talked a little bit about the light areas and the dark areas and those of the Moon and those lighter areas being lunar highlands or this material called anorthosite. And so, that’s what we expect to find there, but, like we talked about, you know, there’s always surprises that can come along. And so, we expect to find a lot like Apollo 16 went to a highlands area — it was the only Apollo mission that went to a region of highland-like material, and so we expect that, but we’re always ready for exciting new finds and different discoveries. At the South Pole, some of the challenges, though, are going to be some of these shadowed regions, and that’s the real reason why we’re going is for the volatiles there at the South Pole or the North Pole that are present on the Moon in the polar regions. And so, we’re really excited that Artemis is headed in that direction to go find these things as resources, right? So, the idea here with Artemis is not only just to go, you know, forward to the Moon and return there, but also to think about how to do it in a sustained way. And so, how do we use the resources that we find on the lunar surface, some of those resources being like the Sun, the illumination, you know, for power, but also resources like what we hope to find in some of these shadowed regions for volatiles. Some of that could be water that we possibly could use to be able to be — keep a sustained presence on the lunar surface and then think about how that all applies to, you know, future human presence on like the surface of Mars, for example.

Host: Now, things like that, things like volatiles, when you’re looking at that, is — maybe that’s perhaps a little bit different from things that we were collecting or samples we were collecting during the Apollo era. So, what information are you providing to Adam that says, “hey, when you get to this site, you’re going to have to deal with these volatiles, these ices, and that means you’re going to need this kind of tool, and it’s going to need this kind of specifications.” What information are you passing onto Adam?

Trevor Graff: Yeah, great question, and that’s that real curveball that we’ve kind of thrown at the tools team from the Apollo missions, are these permanently shadowed regions and trying to think about sampling those and how to get the samples, you know, collected in the correct way, or, you know, the way that we think is correct and all the way back to the surface of Earth, so that we can study them and learn more about them to go and then ultimately use them as a resource. And so, there’s been a number of missions at the lunar surface, orbital missions that have been characterizing those, all the way back, you know, since the late ’90s, or, you know, with different orbiters that started to identify that, “hey, look, there’s something special with these polar regions.” And that’s what led to the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or LRO in — it was around 2009, I believe, at launch, and it’s been there for almost a decade now. And that has a number of instruments on it that are collecting data from all over the Moon, but specifically, there was a number of instruments on that orbiter that are collecting data about the volatiles and the uniqueness of the South Pole environment. So, we’re trying to –scientific community synthesize all those results to the things that Adam’s team can use to actually then build the tools to sample them correctly or at least how we think we need to sample them to understand them better, and so that process is ongoing. It’s involving a lot of people at different centers and a lot of people across the scientific community, and it involves other people in ARES, that organization that I come from and the curation aspect. And so, they’re thinking about how, you know, how do you curate these things and understand them, because ultimately, we really need to understand them to be able to use them as a resource. And so, we’re doing our best as a scientific community to pull all that information together and get it to the tool’s folks, and it’s been a great collaboration in a way that we’ve been integrating very closely recently.

Host: Very cool. So, Adam, what’s one of the early things that you already know — one of the early challenges you know you’re going to have to deal with for Artemis missions when designing these tools?

Adam Naids: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, the biggest challenges we’re seeing right now is operating in these PSRs, these permanently shadowed regions and getting the volatiles, as Trevor mentioned. The types of compounds that are frozen into the regolith, you know, there can be some chemical interactions with our tools that we have to be careful of. And so, we may have to coat our tools with special finishes to make sure that those chemical reactions don’t happen. The other thing is that these compounds are frozen, right? And so, as they heat up, they will turn to from a solid to a liquid and then to a liquid to a gas, and they get to the gas phase pretty quickly. And so, you know, the scientists ideally would be able to get the samples back still frozen, not in their gas form, and so there’s lots of conversation going on about how to do that and how to provide a freezer for the samples to go in. But some of it, those compounds will become gaseous, and so back to what Trevor was talking about, the sample containers. We’re going to have to design these containers to contain that gas, so that the scientists can study it on the ground and contain it to protect the astronaut, because some of those compounds may be harmful. And so, that’s kind of one of the big things that are standing out right now, but we have a huge team across the center and agency kind of talking about it and figuring out what that looks like.

Host: See. [Laughter] it’s not as simple as a, you know, if I’m thinking about a geological expedition, you’re going out, you’re collecting a rock, you put that rock in a bag, and it stays a rock. Now you have to plan for that thing that you’re picking up to change it, and that’s a very interesting challenge. One of those things you got to deal with in space, absolutely incredible. So, I want to move on to the operations here. We’re talking about going down to the surface of the Moon, the tools you have to use. What — talk about the — I’ll pass it back to you, Adam, the operations of an Artemis mission, what you’re expecting with a certain lander to be able to have a certain amount of room to take a certain number of tools and be able to lift off from that surface with a certain amount of mass. How are you planning for those operations?

Adam Naids: Yeah, I mean, we could have a whole podcast about this. So, I’ll talk about the big stuff. Just all the things you mentioned, you know, we have to — we have a limited mass to send our tools down. Then once we’re there, we’re going to have to figure out how do we manage all this equipment? So, we have to take it out of either the astronauts have to bring it out with them, where it’s stowed externally to the vehicle and they can go pull it out of the lockers when they get to the surface, they got to attach some of this stuff to them, put it in their tool carrier or something like that, and then they’re essentially ready to go, but all — I kind of went through that pretty quickly. But figuring out how to manage all the tools is a huge challenge and is one of our top risks I would say that we’re trying to address right now. How do we bring all this stuff around with us? But once we figure that part out, we’ll be — the astronaut will be a geologist, and they’ll go out and do some science, will take pictures of the samples. They’ll be communicating verbally to a whole team of scientists on the ground, what they’re seeing, and there’s this back and forth communication that will continue to happen about what samples are of interest and making sure that we’re staying within our limit of samples to bring home, because we’re mass limited there. We can’t just pick up everything, or the astronauts can’t pick up every sample that they see. So, there’s going to be this high grading process where they go about. It’s just prioritizing, figuring out which samples they actually want to obtain and bring back, but to keep it simple, they’ll go out, they’ll take these pictures, they’ll pick up some of the samples with our tools, put them in the sample containers, and then they’ll end their spacewalk. At the end of the spacewalk, we’re going to want to bring those rocks inside in case we have to leave in a hurry, and we’re going to have to weigh those samples to make sure that we know that we haven’t busted our math allocation. So, we’ll have to have some sort of scale to do that as well. So, there’s kind of a quick run through of what kind of a single EVA could look like.

Host: Yeah, quick but absolutely fascinating. I was locked onto the tools on the external lockers. I just think that’s such a good idea. It’s something I wouldn’t even think about right off the bat, but if you’re thinking about tools, these tools are in the dust, and perhaps you want A, easy access to those tools, but B, you don’t want to track extra dust into the cabin where the astronauts are going to be. So, storing them on the outside is just a great idea. You know, I’m excited to see where some of these ideas go and how they evolve.

Adam Naids: Yeah, and absolutely, Gary, the dust is something that I haven’t touched on a lot, but that is a major concern across the agency is just how to manage dust. And we did it successfully during Apollo. We know we can do better this time around, and we have really smart people thinking about how to do that. Our team is also working on some dust and mitigation tools, so things like brushes or things like that to help the astronauts get the dust off of them before they go in, back inside the lander. And then there’s other smart things that we can do about how we’re managing the samples and other things that are dirty, so that we don’t — we minimize the amount of dust we’re bringing back into the cabin.

Host: Interesting. Now, Trevor, I’m sure from your perspective, you did mention for Artemis there is this goal of a sustainable presence, and I believe after multiple trips to the Moon, it’ll be kind of like Apollo, where you’re staying longer and you’re doing cooler things. So, I’m sure you’re looking forward to some of those later missions. Talk about from your perspective, from your priorities as a geologist during these later missions when geology — when operations become, my gosh, this will be awesome, when operations become quote unquote “routine,” and you can explore further out and do better things. What are some of those geological goals that you’re looking forward to for some of the later Artemis missions?

Trevor Graff: Yeah, great question, and it, really, for geology, it comes down to mobility, right, and being able to in place, I guess the second thing would be able to in place, you know, smarter and better equipment or scientific payloads out there. So, on that first topic, like the mobility of getting to new geologic units, things that may, you know, you might not have time to do based on the limitations of how many EVAs you can do or spacewalks you can do or how far you could go. And so, increasing that mobility as the Artemis missions mature is going to be really important for science and getting to new locations or different PSRs or different geologic units. And so, the mobility may come in the form of, you know, rovers, like they had in, you know, Apollo or, you know, pressurized rovers that we’ve seen in different analog environments and that people have talked about for a long time. Mobility also comes in the form of the [Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit] xEMU or the new suit that they’re building, the, you know, the next generation spacesuit. And so, that allows us to do other things like deploy instruments a lot more efficiently, and so by instruments it’s kind of a different version of the tools that we’re talking about now, but like the instruments can be similar to like the Mars rovers that I talked about earlier. These instruments that are — tell you a lot more about the surface as you explore, and so, you know, they can — basically miniaturized all these lab — huge lab-based instruments over the past decades to where they’re now small enough and light enough to send them to planetary surface to learn about things in-situ or as you’re there. And so, that’s going to be very important to deploy these instruments and other things, you know, that maybe kind of out of the realm of geology but more in the realm of astrophysics or, you know, or deploying telescopes and things like that on the Moon that may actually really help those types of sciences as well.

Host: My gosh, how are you not excited for some of the things that are happening for Artemis? This is absolutely fascinating. Adam let’s dive into what we’re thinking about so far. You mentioned some Apollo heritage tools that work just fine, and yeah, let’s just pull those right from the archives and develop some of those talk about some of the tools that you’re looking at right now at developing.

Adam Naids: Yeah, so right now we’re working on eight tools. These are kind of the baseline tools, the simpler ones, a lot of which flew in Apollo, but we’re making some improvements to them. So, tongs, scoop, rake, we’re working on sample bags. We’re working on the drive tube, and we’re working on an extension handle, which is a common handle that can interface with different end effectors. So, we don’t have to fly a whole bunch of long handles. So, those are kind of, I don’t know, if I got all eight, but those are some of the tools that we’re working on right now. But we’ve — we’re communicating with the programs and trying to figure out what other tools we need, and so we have a list of these potential tools that will hopefully get the start here in the next few months. But at the end of the day, there’s going to be dozens and dozens of tools that are created, some by our team, some by others across the country, but we’re just getting started, Gary.

Host: Well, that’s very exciting. Now, these tools that you’re developing, I’m sure there’s a certain amount of testing that you have to undergo to make sure that they are ready, even making sure that they’re compatible with these suits that the astronauts are going to be wearing when they’re doing the moonwalking, which is a challenge in and of itself. So, describe some of those things that you’re working on too.

Adam Naids: Absolutely. Testing is the most important thing, and we just need to get experience, and we just got to do. We talk a lot, but time talking is good, planning is good, but at some point, we got to just go and do and test. And so, we try to have a culture of prototype early, prototype often, and test early, and test often, and Trevor and I were on a meeting this morning where we’re trying to plan a small, low key test of this next generation of tool prototypes that we’ve created out at the rock yard that we have at JSC. It’s just — it’s a yard that has a bunch of rocks in it, and it looks like the Moon, and there’s a Mars part too. And so, we’re going to do a simulated spacewalk, and we’re going to use the tools, and we’re going to get feedback on them. And so, we’re doing things like that unsuited, so without a spacesuit, and then we’re also doing testing in a lab environment of the spacesuit prototypes as well. So, we have test subjects, sometimes engineers like myself, sometimes scientists like Trevor, and then ultimately the astronauts as these test subjects who are giving us feedback of our tools in that environment. So, we go there. We also go to the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. If NEEMOs continued to happen, the NEEMO missions will go out there, and so our team is involved in a lot of different testing. Our, really, our whole EVA community is involved in a lot of testing right now, and those are the — it’s really fun. It’s really fun to get out there, but that’s where we do most of our learning.

Host: Fantastic, really pedal to the metal here. So, Trevor, from your perspective, I’m sure these samples you know, we talk about all these cool things that we can find on the Moon, but we got to bring them back. So, talk about some of the ways that we’re preparing the Johnson Space Center for when these Artemis samples come back to Earth, and we want to keep them preserved and study them with the instruments we have here.

Trevor Graff: Yeah, a lot of work is currently happening right now, spinning all that up. As you can imagine, a lot is spinning up with Artemis, and so the Apollo curators and, you know, the new generation of people thinking about Artemis curation samples have really been discussing, you know, how to do it better, how to, you know, lessons learn from Apollo, what types of materials we can use, as Adam talked about before, how to store these, how to allocate them out to the world, you know, once we get them. All that planning is currently in work and really excited and to think about, and it really touches this project, you know, the building of the tools and the containers pretty closely. So, lots of conversations going on currently about how to do all this and make sure it’s all synced up in one nice integrated package.

Host: Very cool. Now, Adam, I know, you know, you have a fantastic group that’s all putting their brains into how we can best design tools. I believe you’re also involving students in some capacity to think about maybe unique or innovative ideas that you may not have thought of before. So, what’s that program, and what’s that like?

Adam Naids: Yeah, absolutely. There’s a program called the Microgravity NExT Program. Microgravity – I will just leave it at that, Microgravity NExT, and this started, I think we’re in the sixth year of it now, if I remember correctly, and what we do is we take real challenges that our tools team is working on, along with challenges from other people across the agency. And we put those out to university students across the country, and so they get to submit a proposal of, in our case, a tool design. Our team, myself included, review every single proposal and then along with some of our community members, and we rate these, we rate them, and then a certain number of them will be selected to actually build their tool and then come here to NASA to the Neutral Buoyancy Lab to test their tool out. And so, it’ll be tested by test subjects. The team gets to stay in the control center and direct the test and talk to the subject in real-time. So, it is, number one, a really cool experience for the students to learn what it’s like to be on the team and to design something from beginning to end and to be involved in testing it. And then for us, we get lots of ideas. It’s a way for us to crowdsource design, and so this current year, it started last August, we got feedback and of the — or we got some of the proposals submitted in November of last year, which is just at the same time our design team was spinning up to think about designs for our Artemis tools. And so, we literally sent the student’s proposal over to our designers for consideration, and so some of those ideas may or may not have been incorporated, but it’s a really cool pipeline to get university students working on real challenges.

Host: Unbelievable. So, if you’re a student and you want to design a tool that’s going to be actually used on the Moon or inform designs that can be used on the Moon, that’s the program you want to check out Micro-G NExT. Trevor, I’ll pass it over to you. Artemis, we’re talking about the Moon, and there’s a lot of work going into here, but it is geological exploration, and you’re designing these tools to work on and to explore different bodies in our solar system. There’s got to be applications to Mars here. So, what are those things that you’re thinking about, even as we’re designing for Artemis? What’s on your mind for Mars?

Trevor Graff: Yeah, I mean, almost everything we talked about has applications to Mars. So, the samples and the thinking about contamination control and, you know, the materials we use and the temperatures and the — and how it — how these things interface with the suit and the tool transport and the tool management, as Adam talked about, every single thing is applicable to Mars missions. And so, you know, my head has been in the Mars game for a long time with the robotic missions I talked about. So, I’m excited to eventually, you know, think about getting to that point, but, you know, right now our focus is on the lunar stuff and then keeping an eye on the prize at the end with Mars missions and how all this stuff applies to that. And so, you know, Mars is very geologically diverse, and so from a geologic science standpoint, we’re really excited to eventually get there and think — and see all the exploration and opportunities that Mars science will bring us.

Host: Very cool. Well, Trevor, I got a big question for you. We haven’t had boots on the surface of the Moon since 1972, and we’re going to be going back in the very near future. So, that first mission is going to be a big one, and I’m sure you as a scientist are eager for something on the Moon. So, I want your recommendation for Artemis — for the Artemis mission that’s going to land boots on the Moon. What do you, as a geologist want to bring back? What is the number one priority tool or thing that you want from that mission?

Trevor Graff: The priority tool to me would be to take a rock hammer, so to go and just because I’m a geologist at heart, I want to take a rock hammer and be able to bring back some of that material from the lunar surface, you know, from a nearby crater or boulder. But, you know, the number one priority for the science, I would say, is driving us to go to the South Pole, is getting some of these volatiles back in some of our labs, so that we can understand, you know, the dynamics of them, the components of those volatile samples and then think about how we can use them in a sustainable way to continue these Artemis missions into the future, right? So, these early Artemis missions are just a springboard into a sustainable presence on the lunar surface and then on to Mars. So, those volatiles and ISRU are the, you know, how to live off the land. The resources are really the things that are going to take it to the next level and keep a sustainable presence on other planetary surfaces. So, that’s what I really would like to see.

Host: Very, very exciting. Adam, what about you? You have a lot of people working on these tools. What’s the thing you’re looking forward to most for getting to the Moon?

Adam Naids: For me, it’s just the image of seeing the astronauts being able to take a sample. Actually, really what will make me the happiest is that we get just one, even if it’s just one sample back here on Earth that is useful to the scientists. We definitely don’t take our responsibility here lightly, and we want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can that our tools bring back samples that are pristine and that scientists around the world can study for really decades to come.

Host: Wonderful, and I know, you know, you talked about just seeing people on the Moon is just going to be exciting for itself. But when we first went to the Moon, we planted an American flag. Are we bringing one this time? Are we bringing a flag?

Adam Naids: We’re definitely bringing a flag, Gary, and our team has been asked to start working on that flag. So, yeah, talk about responsibility. That one is super exciting, just as a symbol for what we’re doing and what we stand for, and so it’s really an honor to be getting to work or getting to work on that project right now.

Host: An honor indeed. Gentlemen, what an honor to be talking to you today about all of this. This is such an exciting time we’re on, and I’m looking forward to being part of a generation that’s going to see that next generation of moonwalkers and science on the Moon. Adam and Trevor, thanks so much for coming on Houston We Have a Podcast today.

Trevor Graff: Thanks, Gary. This has been great.

Adam Naids: Yeah, thanks again, Gary, a lot of fun talking with you.

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Host: Hey, thanks for sticking around. I hope you enjoyed our conversation with Adam Naids and Trevor Graff as much as I did. We’ve done a few episodes on Artemis here on Houston We Have a Podcast. You can check out any of our episodes in no particular order at Click on us at Houston We Have a Podcast. We also have many other podcasts across the whole agency. You can check them out there as well. If you want to know more about Artemis specifically, we got a website for that. Guess what it is,, and if you want to know more about EVA, extravehicular activities or some of the suits that we have, go to You can talk to us at Houston We Have a Podcast at NASA Johnson Space Center pages of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Just mention us when you use the hashtag #AskNASA on your favorite platform to submit an idea for the show. This episode was recorded remotely on June 24th, 2020. Thanks again to Alex Perryman, Pat Ryan, Norah Moran, Belinda Pulido, Jennifer Hernandez, Mary Walker, and Stephanie Sipila. Thanks again to Trevor Graff and Adam Naids for taking the time to come on the show. We’ll be back next week.