NASA set to unveil the crew of astronauts for moon flyby mission

NASA set to unveil the crew of Astronauts for Moon Flyby Mission: NASA will tap four astronauts, including three Americans and one Canadian, to carry out a landmark mission to the moon’s surface. This mission will return humans deeper into the solar system than they have been in the past five decades. The crew names will be revealed to the public on Monday.

Artemis II is scheduled to launch in 2024. It will be the first crewed mission of the program to orbit the Moon. This mission will fly further into space than any human since the Apollo program. It will allow the Artemis III crew to reach the moon in 2025 aboard the world’s strongest rocket, at a cost of close to $100 billion.

NASA officials will unveil the names of the crew members Monday morning at 11 AM ET, after months of closed-door decision making.

Also Read: Astronomers observe flattest explosion ever seen in space

Although officials remain tight-lipped about the selections, CNN spoke to nearly a dozen former NASA officials and astronauts to reveal the secrets behind the process.

Wiseman was the chief of NASA’s astronaut office from November 2022 to November 2022. Although the chief cannot fly while in the position, they can still manage the best flight assignments once they step down, as an “acknowledged perk,” according to Garrett Reisman, a former NASA astronaut.

Wiseman, who was the astronaut chief before stepping down, was also responsible for expanding the astronaut pool that is eligible to fly. NASA initially considered 18 astronauts the “Artemis Team”, which was eligible to fly on lunar missions. However, Wiseman increased the number of astronauts eligible to fly to 41.

  • Victor Glover, 46 years old naval aviator, returned to Earth in 2021 from his first spaceflight. He had flown the second crewed spaceflight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. Glover also spent nearly six months at the International Space Station. After four successful spacewalks, the veteran pilot earned a master’s in engineering and moonlights as a test pilot.
  • Randy Bresnik (55), is also a decorated naval pilot and test pilot, who flew combat missions to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. Two missions to the International Space Station have been flown by Bresnik: one aboard the Space Shuttle and another aboard a Russian Soyuz. Bresnik is often cited as a top contender to Artemis. Since 2018, he has been responsible for the development and testing all spacecraft and rockets that will be used in Artemis missions.
  • Anne McClain (43), is a decorated Army pilot and West Point graduate. She flew over 200 combat missions to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2013, she graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School. That same year, she was chosen to be a NASA astronaut. After her 2018 launch on a Russian Soyuz rocket, she spent over 200 days at the International Space Station. She also led two spacewalks.
  • This list includes Stephanie Wilson, the most senior astronaut. She was 56 years old when she joined NASA’s 1996 astronaut class. She served as a mission specialist for three Space Shuttle missions, including the one following the 2003 Columbia disaster that killed seven astronauts.
  • Christina Koch (44), is a veteran of six different spacewalks. With a total of 328 space days, she holds the record for longest single spaceflight by any woman. Koch is an electrical engineer and helped to develop scientific instruments for numerous NASA missions. Koch has also spent a year at South Pole, a long and exhausting stay that may have prepared her for the intense lunar mission.
  • Jessica Meir, a 45-year old biologist, holds a doctorate in oceanography from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In 2002, she was part of a NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations mission (NEEMO). This involved several days spent in an underwater research facility. She also completed a two-week caving expedition in Italy in 2016.

Koch and Meir jointly conducted the first three all female spacewalks in 2019 & 2020. One astronaut from Canada will complete the Artemis II crew, terms which were affirmed in a 2020 treaty.

According to CNN, Jeremy Hansen, the Canadian Space Agency currently has four astronauts. However, Jeremy Hansen is the one who has created the most buzz. Hansen was chosen to become an astronaut nearly 14 years ago. However, he still awaits his first flight assignment. The 47-year old fighter pilot was recently appointed as the first Canadian to take charge of training for a new NASA class of astronauts.

More representation in space

NASA previously stated that it would select a crew representing racial and gender diversity.

These criteria are not always applicable to high-profile missions. Back to the Gemini era astronauts chosen for the first crewed missions were only White and male. They also typically came from a background of military test pilots, a profile that was notably described in Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book “The Right Stuff”.

This was true even during NASA’s recent inaugural crewed flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, to the International Space Station in 2020. It also included ex-military test pilots Bob Behnken, and Doug Hurley.

It may also hold true for Artemis II: CNN interviewed nearly a dozen NASA astronauts and officials who said they expected multiple test pilots to be named.

Wiseman is a White man who will be selected. This means that the remaining spots will most likely go to at least one woman or at least one person of colour.

What are next for Artemis

Artemis II will continue on from Artemis I, an uncrewed test flight that sent NASA’s Orion capsule to a 1.4-million-mile journey to lap the moon. It concluded in December. The space agency considered that mission successful and continues to analyze all data.

Artemis II will launch around November 2024 if all goes according to plan. Crew members will be strapped into the Orion spacecraft and launch on a NASA-designed Space Launch System rocket, which is located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The trip is expected to take around 10 days. It will send the crew beyond the moon, possibly further than any human has ever traveled in history. However, the exact distance has yet to be determined.

Kathryn Hambleton, a NASA spokesperson, stated via email that the exact distance beyond the Moon would depend on liftoff date and relative distance between the Moon and Earth at the time of mission.

After orbiting the moon, the spacecraft will return home to Earth for an emergency landing in the Pacific Ocean.

Artemis II will likely pave the way to the Artemis III mission later in the decade. NASA has promised that Artemis III will be the first woman and person from color to visit the lunar surface. This will be the first time humans have landed on the moon since 1972’s Apollo program.

The launch of the Artemis III mission will be later in the decade. However, much of the technology required for the mission, including spacesuits that allow astronauts to walk on the moon, and a lunar landing vehicle to transport them to the surface of the moon, is still being developed.

NASA has set a 2025 launch date to launch Artemis III. However, the inspector general of the space agency said that delays could push the mission to 2026.

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