NASA Selects Four Astronauts for First Manned Moon Mission in Half a Century

On Monday, the astronauts selected to helm the first crewed moon mission in five decades were revealed, marking the start of their training for the historic Artemis II lunar flyby scheduled for November 2024. The crew comprises NASA’s Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, and Christina Koch, as well as Jeremy Hansen of the Canadian Space Agency.

Reid Wiseman, a decorated naval aviator and test pilot, was first selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009. The 47-year-old Baltimore native has already completed one spaceflight, a 165-day trip to the International Space Station launched in 2014, and most recently served as chief of the astronaut office before stepping down in November 2022. He will serve as the commander of the Artemis II mission.

Jeremy Hansen, a 47-year-old fighter pilot selected by the Canadian Space Agency for astronaut training in 2009, is one of only four active Canadian astronauts. The London, Ontario native recently became the first Canadian to lead training for a new class of NASA astronauts and will become the first Canadian to travel to deep space.

Victor Glover, a 46-year-old naval aviator from Pomona, California, piloted the second crewed flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft in 2021. He spent nearly six months aboard the International Space Station and served in several military squadrons in the United States and Japan in the 2000s. Glover logged 3,000 flight hours in over 40 aircraft, including 400 carrier arrested landings and 24 combat missions. Glover’s first space mission was as part of the SpaceX Crew-1 team, which launched to the International Space Station in November 2020 for a six-month stay.

Christina Koch, a 44-year-old electrical engineer from Grand Rapids, Michigan, holds the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, spending a total of 328 days in space. Koch is also a veteran of six spacewalks, including the first all-female spacewalk in 2019, and helped develop scientific instruments for multiple NASA missions. She also spent a year at the South Pole, which could prove invaluable experience for the intensity of a moon mission.

About the mission

The Artemis II mission is set to take off in November 2024, following the success of Artemis I, an uncrewed test mission that was completed in December 2020. During Artemis II, the four-person crew – NASA’s Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover and Christina Koch, and Jeremy Hansen of the Canadian Space Agency – will launch atop a NASA-developed Space Launch System rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, inside the Orion spacecraft. The journey is expected to last approximately 10 days and will take the crew beyond the moon, further than any human has ever traveled before. The exact distance has not yet been determined, but NASA has stated that it will depend on the day of liftoff and the relative distance of the moon from the Earth at the time of the mission.

After circling the moon, the spacecraft will return to Earth for a splashdown landing in the Pacific Ocean. Artemis II will pave the way for the Artemis III mission, which is expected to take place later in the decade and will mark the first time humans have touched down on the moon since the Apollo program ended in 1972. NASA has vowed that the Artemis III mission will put the first woman and person of color on the lunar surface.

The Artemis III mission is expected to launch in 2025, but delays are possible due to the development of necessary technologies such as spacesuits for walking on the moon and a lunar lander to ferry the astronauts to the moon’s surface. Despite delays, NASA remains committed to returning people to the moon and establishing a permanent lunar outpost, with the ultimate goal of sending the first humans to Mars.

On April 9, 2021, NASA announced the four astronauts who will make up the crew of the Artemis II mission. The mission is set to launch in November 2024 and will be the first crewed mission of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and person of color on the moon.

Vanessa Wyche, the director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, declined to provide details to CNN about the selection process. However, she emphasized the diversity of the Artemis II crew, which includes men and women rather than only a staff of White male test pilots, as has been the case for historic missions of the past.

The four astronauts who were chosen for the mission found out a few weeks before the announcement. During an interview with CNN’s Ed Lavandera, astronaut Christina Koch shared that the group was sent to a meeting on their calendar, which was under a different pretext that didn’t sound as important as the one it was going to be. Koch said two of them were late for the meeting accidentally. She said the offer left her “speechless.”

“It truly is an honor,” she added. “It’s an honor — not to get myself in the space — but because it’s amazing to be a part of this team that’s going back to the moon and on to Mars.”

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