NASA has selected the astronauts for its Artemis II mission, which is planned for late 2024. This mission will take the four crew members in a figure of eight around the moon, the first time humans have visited the moon since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
The mission’s commander will be Reid Wiseman, who was NASA’s chief astronaut until November 2022 – meaning it is likely he was in charge of selecting the crew for Artemis II. He has been to space once before, travelling to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2014.
Victor Glover will be the pilot. He flew to the ISS aboard SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission in 2020, the first operational mission of the commercial crew programme, and is a test pilot by trade.
There will be two mission specialists, a catch-all position for astronauts not commanding or piloting missions. The first is Christina Koch, who holds the record for the longest space flight by a woman – she spent 328 days in space from 2018 to early 2019. The second is Jeremy Hansen, one of four active Canadian astronauts. He will be the only crew member making his first flight to space on Artemis II.
“Human space flight is like a relay race, and that baton has been passed from generation to generation, and from crew member to crew member,” said Glover during the announcement. “When we have the privilege of having that baton, we will do our best to run a good race.”
The Artemis II mission will last about 10 days, with the astronauts launching to space atop NASA’s huge Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and orbiting Earth for just under two days before heading off to the moon. They will not enter lunar orbit. One of the key reasons for the mission is to fully test life support systems and spacecraft manoeuvres.
The Artemis II crew will travel 370,000 kilometres away from Earth; the record distance for deep-space travel is held by the Apollo 13 mission, which travelled 400,171 kilometres.
After circling the moon, the Artemis II crew will return home. If all goes well, this mission will be the final step before sending humans back to the surface of the moon, planned for 2025.