NASA announced the four-person crew chosen to travel on the first crewed tour around the moon in more than half a century, including the first woman and the first African American ever assigned as astronauts on a lunar mission.
Engineer Christina Koch, 44, has been chosen as a mission specialist for the Artemis II lunar flyby scheduled for sometime early next year. Koch now holds the record for the longest continuous spaceflight by a woman and participated in three of NASA’s first all-female spacewalks.
NASA has chosen Victor Glover, 46, a U.S. Navy aviator and veteran of four spacewalks, to be the Artemis II mission’s pilot. He will make history as the first African-American astronaut to travel to the moon.
Jeremy Hansen, a colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force and the first Canadian to be selected for a lunar mission, will serve as a mission specialist, while Reid Wiseman, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot, will lead the expedition. They share the same 47th year.
All three of the NASA astronauts selected for the Artemis II mission have extensive experience working on the ISS. Canadian Space Agency astronaut Hansen is a first-time astronaut.
Televised from NASA’s mission control in Houston, the Artemis II foursome was unveiled in a pep rally-style ceremony attended by media, local primary school kids, and professionals in the space industry.
“The Artemis II crew represents thousands of people working tirelessly to bring us to the stars. This is humanity’s crew,” Bill Nelson, the NASA administrator, made the announcement. To depart; “We are going.”
The White House confirmed that Vice President Joe Biden personally congratulated the four by phone.
Crewed flights aboard the Artemis II spacecraft will begin later this decade as part of a successor program to Apollo, with the ultimate goal of building a permanent lunar colony to pave the way for future human exploration of Mars.
In December 2022, NASA successfully launched the first in its Artemis series of missions, a 25-day unmanned test flight of the agency’s next-generation mega-rocket and the Orion spacecraft it had just finished building.
The purpose of the Artemis II mission, which will take 10 days and will take the spacecraft around the moon and back, is to prove that the Orion spacecraft will function normally with humans on board in extremely low-Earth orbit.
When Artemis II returns to Earth, it will have traveled more than 6,400 miles (10,300 kilometers) past the moon’s far side, making it the closest human spacecraft have come to our natural satellite since Apollo 17 landed Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt on the moon in December 1972.
Both Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin were the last of a total of 12 NASA astronauts to set foot on the moon during the six Apollo missions that began in 1969. All of the astronauts were white males.
Master Plan for a Journey to the Moon
The maximum distance that Artemis II is predicted to go from Earth is almost 230,000 miles (370,000 kilometers). The International Space Station orbits the Earth at an average of around 250 miles above the surface.
The Artemis II crew will ride NASA’s two-stage Space Launch System (SLS) rocket into orbit, where they will perform manual maneuvers with the Orion spacecraft before returning control to Earth for more testing and the mission’s lunar flyby.
Following its lunar orbit, Orion will return to Earth without the aid of any propellant, flying for another four days before splashing down in the ocean.
If Artemis II is successful, NASA wants to send people, including a woman, on Artemis III to the moon’s south pole for the first time. About once a year, crewed missions would continue.
Unlike Apollo, which was conceived during the U.S.-Soviet space competition, Artemis has a wider range of partners, including private companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and government space agencies in Canada, Europe, and Japan.
It’s a big shift for NASA, which has spent decades focusing on trips to and from the space station, to begin thinking about human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit.