NASA’s First Flight With Crew Important Step on Long-term Return to the Moon, Missions to Mars
In an official ceremony held today, April 3, 2023, NASA announced the names of the four astronauts on the Artemis II mission, which will enter lunar orbit on a flight that has not been made for 50 years, since Apollo 17 ended the project. US manned lunar landing. The crew members are Reid Wiseman (Commander), Victor Glover (Pilot), Jeremy Hansen (Canadian, Mission Specialist) and Cristina Koch, Mission Specialist. The ceremony was hosted by the Chief of the Astronaut Corps, Joseph Acaba, with the presence of the Chief of Flight Operations Directorate, Norman Knight, the Director of the Johnson Space Center, Vanessa Wyche, and the representative of the Canadian Space Agency, Minister François-Philippe Champagne.
Wiseman, Glover, Hansen and Koch were the most quoted names since the selection processes began, and Wiseman had a very particular role in history. The flight is planned for 2024 to put the Orion spacecraft to the test in lunar orbit ahead of an attempted landing on the Artemis III mission. The only thing definitive was that the crew of Artemis II would consist of three Americans and one Canadian, according to terms consolidated in a 2020 treaty between the two countries. From the beginning, NASA stressed the need for the program to be named after Apollo's twin sister in Greek mythology, Artemis, and have a crew with a strong mix of "gender, racial and professional diversity." The space agency is working on a schedule imposed by the Trump administration, which required astronauts to return to the Moon by the end of 2024 using the SLS, an Orion and a commercially developed lunar module by SpaceX – which has yet to be built. Even before Trump's defeat in the 2020 presidential election, many observers considered the 2024 target date impossible to meet, due to the shortfall in funding for land development in congressional budget talks.
The space agency has a very diverse group. More than a third of Artemis' 41 astronauts are women and 12 are people of color. The generation is also diverse professionally, with just 16 riders in its ranks. The rest are “mission specialists” with backgrounds in biology, geography, oceanography, engineering and medicine. Nearly a dozen current and former space agency employees and astronauts had expected several test pilots to be assigned to Artemis II, as the mission marks the first manned test flight to the Moon since the Apollo program.
Reid Wiseman, was selected as commander; therefore other vacancies would obligatorily be for at least one woman and one “person of color”. Scheduled to launch in late 2024 (more likely early next year), Artemis II will make way for the Artemis III crew in mid to late 2025 – aboard NASA's most powerful rocket (the SLS) and at a price that will reach US$ 100 billion. As publicized as the Artemis II was, the process of how its crew was chosen remained a mystery. Aside from announcing the astronauts' nationalities — three Americans and one Canadian — NASA has said almost nothing publicly about the names or the reasons behind each choice.
“For the first time in more than 50 years, these individuals – the Artemis II crew – will be the first humans to fly to the vicinity of the Moon. Among the crew are the first woman, first person of color, and first Canadian on a lunar mission, and all four astronauts will represent the best of humanity as they explore for the benefit of all,” said Director Vanessa Wyche, NASA Johnson. “This mission paves the way for the expansion of human deep space exploration and presents new opportunities for scientific discoveries, commercial, industry and academic partnerships and the Artemis Generation.
The approximately 10-day Artemis II flight test will launch on the agency’s powerful Space Launch System rocket, prove the Orion spacecraft’s life-support systems, and validate the capabilities and techniques needed for humans to live and work in deep space.
The chosen ones in the crew
The Command went to Reid Wiseman, a 47-year-old decorated naval aviator and test pilot selected to be an agency astronaut in 2009. Wiseman stepped down as chief of the astronaut office in November, a role historically responsible for selecting crew assignments for each mission, but that too an office that is not eligible to fly in space. “Being a boss is a miserable, awful job,” said former astronaut Garrett Reisman. “Nobody wants that, especially now. ” While it may be a job few astronauts want before their Artemis crew assignments, it does come with a big upside. Historically, the only benefit of being a boss is that when you resign, you give yourself the best flight assignment available at the time. That's kind of a recognized advantage,” said Reisman. " Undoubtedly,
For the pilot position, Victor J. Glover, Jr, a 46-year-old naval aviator who returned to Earth from his first spaceflight in 2021, after piloting the second manned flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft and spending nearly six months aboard the Space Station International. The veteran of four spacewalks earned a master's degree in engineering while working as a test pilot.
Victor Glover, was selected as an astronaut in 2013 as one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class. In 2015, he completed Astronaut Candidate Training, including scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in International Space Station systems, spacewalks, robotics, physiological training, T-38 flight training and water and wilderness survival training. Glover has been assigned as Pilot of NASA’s Artemis II mission.
"Artemis II is more than a mission to the Moon and back...it's the next step on the journey that takes humanity to Mars." - Glover
As mission specialist, 43-year-old Cristina Koch, a veteran of six spacewalks, also holds the record for the longest spaceflight by a woman, with a total of 328 days. Koch, an electrical engineer, was selected as a mission specialist in NASA's astronaut class in 2013 after stints at remote science bases in polar regions. This experience of surviving in hostile climates and uncomfortable environments is important for a crew that will be cramped inside a 5 meter wide capsule for approximately ten days.
"We are going to carry YOUR excitement, YOUR aspirations, YOUR dreams, with us on this mission. Artemis II: YOUR mission." - Koch
The final seat on the Artemis II crew was booked by a Canadian, and Jeremy Hansen was the highest-rated astronaut at the Canadian Space Agency. Hansen was selected as an astronaut nearly 14 years ago, but he was still waiting for his first mission. The 47-year-old fighter pilot recently became the first Canadian to be tasked with training a new class of astronauts for the space agency.
Before stepping down as chief, two days before the launch of Artemis I, the first unmanned test flight, Wiseman had made another key move in August, when he reversed an earlier decision to select the Artemis crew from an initial core of just 18 astronauts formerly considered the "Team Artemis". Instead, Wiseman expanded the group to all 41 active astronauts. “As I see it, any one of us is eligible for a mission,” he said at the time. “We just want to assemble the right team for this mission. ”Wiseman emphasized that he would consider all current astronauts, as well as ten astronaut-in-training candidates. “We have active astronauts here in Houston and aspiring astronauts who will be opening doors for Artemis 2,” he said. He added that the space agency also changed lifetime radiation exposure requirements, which previously varied by age and gender, to a single limit. A June 2021 report from the National Academies endorsed such a proposal, noting that it "creates equal opportunity for spaceflight" over past standards that set lower thresholds for women. Wiseman said these previous "draconian" standards have been replaced by a single limit. “We have equalized all radiation limits. It doesn't matter if you're male, female, it's exactly the same. “Our ultimate goal is for America to be half men, half women. Well, space should be at least that,” he said. “If we can't make these spacecraft equitable and we can't carry any type of people on them, we need to look at our systems and reassess them. ”There are also no age restrictions on Artemis mission assignments, he said, noting that the astronaut corps includes people between the ages of 20 and 60. “As long as you're healthy, we'll put you in a rocket and blast you off the planet. ”
The choice of Artemis-II Crew
Formally, the space agency's administrator, Bill Nelson, a former Democratic senator from Florida, had no role in the process, something he confirmed in early January when he said the agency's leadership in Washington "would sit out" the selection. of the crew. “This is done by the Johnson Space Center people. They'll make the decision," Nelson previously said, "I don't know if they've decided who the crew is yet, nor should I. ” A selection of eight candidates was initially chosen. All were highly skilled at the height of their careers. But sometimes the deciding factor can come down to something frustratingly small. “The problem is that it can be influenced by trivial things like the size of the space suit you wear. If there's only one medium and one large and you need the extra-large, you're shortchanged. You will not be assigned to the mission,” Reisman said. “It can be crazy, little things that dictate how everything turns out and it's not always the fairest or most transparent process. ” Typically, NASA also strives to have a professionally diverse team with a healthy mix of newcomers and veterans, targeting a mix of military pilots and citizen scientists – physicians, engineers, astrophysicists, biologists and geologists – with a variety of strengths. The first person in the decision-making process is the chief astronaut, a role currently held by Joseph Acaba, who took his initial recommendations to the head of the Directorate of Flight Operations, Norman Knight, and then to the director of the Johnson Space Center, Vanessa Wyche, responsible for sign in the last four selections. “It can be crazy, little things that dictate how everything turns out and it's not always the fairest or most transparent process. ”