NASA on Monday announced a team of four astronauts who will launch on a critical test flight next year to slingshot around the moon, setting the stage for the agency’s long-awaited return to the lunar surface.
In an event held in Houston, the agency named NASA astronauts Christina Hammock Koch, Victor Glover, Reid Wiseman and Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen as the crew for its upcoming Artemis II flight, slated to launch in 2024.
“The Artemis II crew represents thousands of people working tirelessly to bring us to the stars,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at the ceremony. “This is their crew. This is our crew This is humanity’s crew.”
The astronauts will be the first humans to fly in the vicinity of the moon in more than 50 years. They will also be the first to launch aboard NASA’s next-generation megarocket and Orion space capsule. The crew will not land on the moon but will swing around the celestial body, testing the performance of the Orion spacecraft, before returning to Earth.
If successful, NASA has said that the subsequent Artemis III flight will touch down on the moon with a crew that will include the first woman and the first person of color to step foot on the lunar surface.
Wiseman will act as the commander of the Artemis II flight. A former naval aviator test pilot, he was selected to become a NASA astronaut in 2009. In 2014, he launched to the International Space Station on a 165-day mission as part of the Expedition 41 crew.
NASA said Glover, a former captain in the U.S. Navy, will be the mission’s pilot. He was selected as an astronaut in 2013 and previously flew on the second crewed flight of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft to the space station.
Koch and Hansen will serve as mission specialists on the Artemis II flight. Koch, who became an astronaut in 2013, set a record in 2020 for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, after spending a total of 328 days in space aboard the space station. During that mission, she also participated in the first all-female spacewalk.
Hansen was selected by the Canadian Space Agency to become an astronaut in 2009. The former fighter pilot will be the first Canadian to venture to the moon.
Artemis II will be the first fully crewed test flight as part of NASA's efforts to return to the moon.
Last year, the agency launched its huge Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule on an uncrewed mission to the moon, where the spacecraft remained in lunar orbit for a few weeks before returning to Earth. The Artemis I flight included mannequins laden with sensors that studied conditions during the mission and measured radiation levels throughout the journey.
The Artemis program is named for the goddess of Greek mythology who was the twin sister of Apollo. NASA envisions launching regular missions to establish a base camp on the lunar surface before it eventually ventures to Mars.