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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Astronaut Anne McClain talks moonwalks and Mars mission with McMorris Rodgers

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers smiles during a Washington D.C. meeting in her office Thursday with astronauts Anne McClain, right, and Nick Hague. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

WASHINGTON – After their children’s space walk together 220 miles above the Earth’s surface, the mothers of astronauts Anne McClain and Nick Hague made a toast together in Coeur d’Alene.

“The stress we put our families through is probably unforgivable,” McClain told Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers on Thursday, as Spokane’s native astronaut briefed the congresswoman on her trip to space that ended last summer.

The two astronauts, clad in NASA jumpsuits, presented McMorris Rodgers with mission patches commemorating their journeys to the International Space Station. McClain and Hague, a Texas native whose parents have retired to Sandpoint, impressed upon the congresswoman the need for support for the Artemis mission, which is shooting to put the next humans on the moon by 2024.

McClain has been rumored for one of the positions, which would put her in line to be the first woman to walk on the lunar surface. McMorris Rodgers praised the example the 1997 Gonzaga Prep grad had set for those in Eastern Washington.

“I think it’s good you’re home and telling the stories, and getting more young people excited about it,” McMorris Rodgers told McClain. “Especially women, girls that can start dreaming also about exploring.”

McClain said she, too, had been inspired by young people when speaking after her return to Earth. That included a trip to the Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center, where she spoke with teenagers about the challenges presented by radiation in space.

“I was getting letters for six months after that, from students that are in (juvenile detention) in Spokane, saying, ‘Hey, we sat around and talked about it and here are some things that we thought of,’ ” McClain said. “That’s great, that they’re thinking about solving these problems.”

McMorris Rodgers gave McClain, a West Point graduate and active lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, some good-natured ribbing for selecting that branch of service. Her husband, Brian Rodgers, is a retired Naval aviator and the two went on their first date in Annapolis, home of the U.S. Naval Academy, where Rodgers studied.

“He flew. He’s very quick to remind me of the history,” McMorris Rodgers said of her husband.

McClain told the congresswoman that bipartisan, international support would be key to the success of the new moon – and potentially Mars – mission.

“Artemis 2024 is very realistic,” McClain said, “as long as we stay the path.”