Meet the Four Astronauts Who’ll Fly Around the Moon for Artemis II

  • The four astronauts chosen for NASA’s Artemis II mission will mark a number of firsts during their flight around the moon, scheduled for next year.
  • It will mark the first trip beyond Earth orbit for a woman, a person of color and a Canadian.
  • Artemis II will represent another first for Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen: according to the crew’s current schedule, it will be his first space mission.

Commander Reid Wiseman, Pilot Victor Glover and Mission Specialist Christina Koch complete the first crew for NASA’s Artemis Lunar Program, which builds on the legacy of the Apollo Lunar Program. If all goes according to plan, they will be the first humans to go around the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.

As NASA Administrator Bill Nelson prepared to introduce the crew, he echoed the lunar vision that President John F. Kennedy laid out in his famous 1962 “We Choose to Go to the Moon” speech.

Nelson said:

“We chose to go back to the moon and then to Mars.”

“And we will do it together, because in the 21st century, NASA explores the cosmos with international partners. We will unlock new knowledge and understanding. We have always dreamed of what awaits us the most. Because? Because it’s in our DNA. It is part of us. It’s who we are, as adventurers, as explorers, as frontiersmen.”

Dozens of astronauts and dozens of VIPs attended the big reveal at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas. Joe Acaba, the head of the Astronaut Office, joked onstage about the secrecy surrounding the selection of the four Artemis II crew members. “I’ll give you a hint: I’m not one of them,” he said, causing a laugh. “Don’t be so happy about it.”

Speaking metaphorically, the stage was set for Artemis II last fall when NASA’s Space Launch System sent an uncrewed Orion deep space capsule on a weeks-long Artemis I mission around the moon and back. That flight was designed to test NASA hardware and procedures for Artemis II, and for the even more ambitious Artemis III mission, which currently aims to bring astronauts to the lunar surface by the end of 2025.

The flight plan for the 10-day Artemis II mission, officially scheduled for November 2024, is similar to the Apollo 8 around-the-moon mission in 1968. As was the case with Artemis I, the journey would begin with an SLS launch. : but this time with people instead of test dummies inside the Orion capsule. After an initial check of the systems in high Earth orbit, the crew would fly past the moon and then do a gravity-assisted spin 10,300km beyond lunar orbit. The return to Earth would feature a re-entry at 40,200 km/h and an Apollo-style splashdown.

Christina Koch, who would become the first woman to see the far side of the moon with her own eyes, told the audience:

“I’m excited? Absolutely”.

“But my real question is, are you excited? I see them and I ask them that, because what excites me the most is that we are going to take their enthusiasm, their aspirations, their dreams with us on this mission.”

Jeremy Hansen, the only space rookie on the Artemis II crew, praised the United States’ leadership in space and Canada’s “can do attitude.” His role in the mission recognizes Canadian contributions to NASA’s space effort, including robotic arms for the space shuttle and the International Space Station, as well as a lunar utility vehicle that Canadian companies are building for lunar missions.

Hansen said:

“For decades, literally thousands and thousands of Canadians have risen to that challenge to bring real value to the international partnership with respect to space exploration, to bring real solutions.”

Victor Glover, who became the first black astronaut to join a full-length crew on the International Space Station in 2020, said the buzz around the Artemis II mission had a Hollywood ring to it.

“I feel like Denzel Washington should be here talking to you, but you just got us.”

Glover said:

“Human spaceflight is like a relay race.”

“And that baton has been passed down from generation to generation, and from crew to crew, from Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Apollo-Soyuz, Skylab, Mir, the shuttle, the International Space Station, the commercial crew and now the Artemis missions. We understand our role in that. And when we have the privilege of having that baton, we will do everything we can to have a good race, to make you proud.”

Artemis II Commander Reid Wiseman closed the ceremony with a round of thanks to the NASA workforce, its international partners and, in particular, his fellow astronauts, including the current crew of the International Space Station.

Wiseman said:

“If any of you are looking for heroes, Google these people, because they are our heroes.”

Here are the basic stats of the Artemis II crew

  • Commander Reid Wiseman
  • Hometown: Baltimore, Md.
  • Born: 1975
  • Background: Naval aviator, test pilot, selected to become astronaut in 2009.
  • Spaceflight experience: Expedition 40/41 on International Space Station, 2014
  • Pilot Victor Glover
  • Hometown: Pomona, Calif.
  • Born: 1976
  • Background: Naval aviator, test pilot, selected as NASA astronaut in 2013.
  • Spaceflight experience: SpaceX Crew-1 and Expedition 64 on International Space Station, 2020-2021.
  • Mission specialist Christina Hammock Koch
  • Hometown: Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Born: 1979
  • Background: Engineer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, research associate in U.S. Antarctic Program, electrical engineer at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, researcher at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, selected as NASA astronaut in 2013.
  • Spaceflight experience: Expedition 59/60/61 on International Space Station, 2019-2020.
  • Mission specialist Jeremy Hansen (Canada)
  • Hometown: London, Ontario
  • Born: 1976
  • Background: Fighter pilot, selected as Canadian Space Agency astronaut in 2009.
  • Training experience: Cave test subject with European Space Agency’s CAVES program in 2013, aquanaut with NEEMO 19 underwater test program in 2014.

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