The four astronauts selected for NASA’s Artemis II mission will make a series of firsts during their flight around the moon, scheduled for next year. It will be the first extra-orbital journey for a woman, for a person of color and for a Canadian. Artemis II will mark another first for Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen: based on the current crew schedule, it will be his first-ever space mission.
Commander Reid Wiseman, Pilot Victor Glover and Mission Specialist Christina Koch complete the first crew for NASA’s Artemis lunar program, continuing the legacy of the Apollo lunar program. If all goes according to plan, they will become the first humans to orbit the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.
As NASA Administrator Bill Nelson prepared to introduce the crew, he echoed the moonshot vision laid out by President John F. Kennedy in his famous 1962 speech, “We Choose to Go to the Moon.”
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“We choose to go back to the moon and on to Mars,” Nelson said. “And we will do it together, because in the 21st century NASA is exploring the cosmos with international partners. We will unlock new knowledge and understanding. We have always dreamed of what lies ahead. Why? Because it’s in our DNA. It’s part of us. That’s who we are, as adventurers, as explorers, as border crossers.”
Dozens of astronauts and numerous VIPs attended today’s grand unveiling at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas. Joe Acaba – the chief of the astronaut office – joked onstage about the secrecy surrounding the selection of the Artemis II’s four crew members. “I’ll give you a hint: I’m not one of them,” he said, cracking a laugh. “Don’t be so happy about it.”
Figuratively speaking, the stage was set for Artemis II last fall when NASA’s Space Launch System sent an unmanned Orion space capsule on a week-long Artemis I mission around the moon and back. This flight was designed to test NASA’s hardware and procedures for Artemis II — and for the even more ambitious Artemis III mission, which currently aims to get astronauts to the lunar surface in late 2025.
The flight plan for the ten-day Artemis II mission, officially scheduled for November 2024, is analogous to the Apollo 8 Round the Moon mission in 1968. As in the case of Artemis I, the journey would be on an SLS Begin launch — but this time with humans instead of test dummies in the Orion capsule. After an initial system check in high Earth orbit, the crew would fly past the moon and then make a gravity-assisted turn 6,400 miles past lunar orbit. The return to Earth would involve a 25,000 mph re-entry and an Apollo-style splashdown.
This NASA infographic shows the flight plan for Artemis II. Click on the image for a larger version.
“Am I excited? Absolutely,” Christina Koch, who would become the first woman to see the far side of the moon with her own eyes, told the audience today. “But my real question is, are you excited? I see you and I ask this because what I look forward to most is that we will carry your excitement, your aspirations and your dreams with us on this mission.”
Jeremy Hansen, the only space rookie on the Artemis II crew, praised America’s leadership in space and Canada’s “can-do attitude.” His role on the mission recognizes Canadian contributions to NASA’s space efforts, including robotic arms for the Space Shuttle and International Space Station, and a lunar utility vehicle that Canadian companies build for lunar missions.
“For decades, literally thousands and thousands of Canadians have taken on this challenge to bring real value and solutions to the international partnership in space exploration,” said Hansen.
Victor Glover, who became the first black astronaut to join a long-term crew on the International Space Station in 2020, said the hype surrounding the Artemis II mission had a Hollywood feel. “I have a feeling Denzel Washington should be talking to you up here, but you just got us,” he said, laughing.
“Human spaceflight is like a relay race,” Glover said. “And that baton has been passed down from generation to generation and from crew member to crew member, 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 it. And if we’re privileged to have that baton, we’ll do our best to have a good race to make you proud.”
Artemis II Commander Reid Wiseman concluded the ceremony with a round of thanks to the staff of NASA, its international partners – and in particular to his fellow astronauts, including the current crew of the International Space Station.
“If any of you guys are there looking for heroes, google those guys because they’re our heroes,” Wiseman said.
To save you a Google search, here are the basic stats for the Artemis II crew:
Commander Reid Wiseman
Hometown: Baltimore, Md.
Background: Naval aviator, test pilot, selected to be an astronaut in 2009.
Space Experience: Expedition 40/41 on the International Space Station, 2014.
Pilot Victor Glover
Hometown: Pomona, California
Background: Naval aviator, test pilot, selected as a NASA astronaut in 2013.
Space Experience: SpaceX Crew-1 and Expedition 64 on the International Space Station, 2020-2021.
Mission Specialist Christina Hammock Koch
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Mich.
Background: Engineer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Research Associate in the US Antarctic Program, Electrical Engineer at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, Researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, selected as a NASA astronaut in 2013.
Space Experience: Expedition 59/60/61 on the International Space Station, 2019-2020.
Mission Specialist Jeremy Hansen (Canada)
Hometown: London, Ontario
Background: Fighter pilot selected as an astronaut by the Canadian Space Agency in 2009.
Training experience: Cave test subject with the European Space Agency’s CAVES program in 2013, Aquanaut with the NEEMO 19 underwater test program in 2014.
And here are some reactions from celebrities on Twitter:
The manned @NASA Artemis II mission around the moon will inspire the next generation of explorers and show every kid – in America, Canada and around the world – that if they can dream they can be. pic.twitter.com/X8q3GLTBiQ
— President Biden (@POTUS) April 3, 2023
Congratulations to NASA’s Victor Glover, Christina Koch and Reid Wiseman and Jeremy Hansen for crewing #NASA Artemis 2 in Year 24! It’s a great honor, a proud moment for you and the nation. Your role in leading America’s efforts in space will be one of great inspiration! pic.twitter.com/oTYpWgB6JY
– dr Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) April 3, 2023