Months after their name was announced to be the first astronauts to go around the Moon in over half a century, the Artemis-II crew will begin training for this ground-breaking mission. The astronauts will fly on the space agency’s new Orion capsule around the Moon, testing systems needed for future missions to Mars.
The four astronauts selected for the mission, which launches in 2024, are NASA veterans Christina Koch, Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, and Canadian rookie Jeremy Hansen. They were unveiled on Monday at an event at Ellington Field near NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Glover is the newest addition to the crew and will serve as the flight’s commander. The decorated naval aviator will make his second trip to space and is also the first African American to fly a lunar mission. In addition, he is the first person to fly on a flight that includes female and Black astronauts. A 44-year-old engineer, Koch will be the crew’s Mission Specialist 1. She holds the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman and has participated in three separate spacewalks.
Wiseman, the most experienced of the crew, is a retired astronaut who had been head of NASA’s Astronaut Office and was responsible for assigning crews to missions. Last year, he stepped down from this role, prompting speculation that he wanted to fly on the Moon mission. However, Wiseman has also manned the ISS, so his return to space is nothing unusual.
Jeremy Hansen, the fourth astronaut on the mission, will be the first Canadian to fly a lunar mission. The Royal Canadian Air Force pilot has spent over a decade flying F-18 fighter jets. His selection will be a big win for Canada, which wants to build a space station of its own in the coming years and is already collaborating with NASA on Orion components.
As part of the mission, the crew will dock with the Lunar Gateway and explore the lunar surface, performing various scientific experiments. One of these will be the first direct sampling of water ice on the Moon, which has never been done before. The crew will also test out Orion’s deep space propulsion system to learn more about how to send humans to Mars.
The 10-day mission will end with a flyby of the Moon. While the astronauts won’t land on the Moon this time, they will get the closest to the natural satellite since 1972. This mission will be the first crewed mission aimed at paving the way for humanity’s return to the Moon, which the agency hopes will happen in the 2025-26 timeframe. The spacecraft the astronauts will fly on this journey is the Space Launch System rocket integrated with an Orion crew module. The training for the mission will take place in June and will last for 18 months. It will include extensive training in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory and a mockup of the Orion spacecraft at JSC.