NASA plans to put the first woman and next man on the moon in 2024, which just so happens to be the same year Joe Cloud expects to graduate with his doctorate.

He plans to help make that dream a reality, too.

The 2015 Waxahachie Global High graduate correlates the two life events because he played a role in that expedition to lunar orbit. 

Cloud graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with his degree in computer engineering and conducted robotics research — a passion that stemmed from his Global experiences. Now through his combined masters and doctorate studies, Cloud is a pathway intern at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

"During my Ph.D. studies, I will do rotations during semesters and summers, but hopefully, that leads to a full-time position after I graduate," he told the Daily Light over the phone.

Since May 1, Cloud has been involved in the "swamp works" division and works in the technology development center. His efforts allow NASA to be one step closer to creating a sustainable living environment on the moon.

"What I'm involved in right now is a simulation that has allowed me to develop robotic algorithms, or making learning tools that will let these excavation robots to do these tasks effectively."

A NASA representative elaborated saying the first mission will not include sustainable living for humans but plans to have a "sustainable human lunar presence" by 2028.

Information gathered on the moon will eventually be extended with a human Mars mission in the 2030s.

"Our sustainable Moon to Mars exploration approach is reusable and repeatable — we will build an open exploration architecture in lunar orbit with as many capabilities that can be replicated as possible for missions to the Red Planet," according to nasa.gov. 

July marked the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin explored the lunar surface for two and a half hours. The name of NASA's program to return astronauts to the moon is Artemis — the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the moon in Greek mythology.

President Donald Trump directed NASA to land the next American astronauts on the lunar South Pole — where no human has ever been before. NASA accepted the bold space five-year challenge and targeted 2020 for the launch of the ever-so powerful Space Launch System rock and Orion spacecraft together from the Kennedy Space Center.

NASA's website includes a timeline of events that will conclude with astronauts on Mars. 

The first flight test will not include humans and is known as Artemis 1. This will demonstrate the capacity to send a crewed spaceship to lunar orbit ahead of a return to the surface of the moon," states nasa.org. 

The Orion spacecraft will later carry up to four crewmembers and will dock with the Gateway in orbit around the moon. The Space Launch System is an advanced rocket that will be designed to send humans in deep space and support a variety of complex missions. The SLS is taller than the Statue of Liberty and will weigh 5.75 million pounds and produce 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff — 15 more percent more thrust than the Saturn V rocket.

By 2022, the SLS will launch with astronauts onboard the Orion spacecraft. The Gateway will launch on a private rocket by December 2022 to provide power, propulsion and communications for the entire spaceship as it is assembled and operated. The second Gateway element will launch as a small pressurized cabin. The first astronauts to visit the Gateway will transfer from Orion where they will prepare for their expedition to the lunar south pole.

In 2026, "The human landing system will be launched in stages aboard private rockets," according to nasa.gov. "They will assemble together in lunar orbit and dock to the Gateway as a single unit, ready to take astronauts down to the lunar surface."

By 2028, several expeditions abroad the Gateway and on the lunar surface would take place. The sustainable human lunar presence will occur with capabilities and reusable landing systems.

THE GLOBAL EXPERIENCE

Cloud knew he was interested in computers and looked into the Global pathways. He competed with Global students on the FIRST Robotics Varsity team and was able to "form ideas," "building things" and "problem-solving."

Two teachers made a significant impact on his such as his chemistry and biology teacher, Ms. Stevio, who gave him an idea for college with rigorous studies. The robotics team advisor and English teacher, Molly Adams, also made a difference in his life with her passion and drive. 

Cloud continued to stay involved in robotics competitions in Texas by refereeing competitions and outreached to the Global team regularly.

"It was important to me to have that mentorship going in. That was something the team has now than it did in the past with the technical leadership, he said. "I think that really reflected well on my application when applying to this position."

His mentor later assured him that his passions, volunteering and mentorship allowed him to shine on an application.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450