The four astronauts chosen for NASA’s Artemis II mission will check off a string of firsts during their flight around the moon, scheduled for next year. It’ll mark the first trip beyond Earth orbit for a woman, for a person of color and for a Canadian. Artemis II will represent yet another first for Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen: Based on the current crew schedule, it’ll be his first-ever space mission.
Commander Reid Wiseman, pilot Victor Glover and mission specialist Christina Koch round out the first crew for NASA’s Artemis moon program, which picks up on the legacy of the Apollo moon program. If all goes according to plan, they’ll be the first humans to circle the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.
As NASA Administrator Bill Nelson geared up to introduce the crew, he echoed the moonshot vision that President John F. Kennedy laid out in 1962 in his famous “We Choose to Go to the Moon” speech.
“We choose to go to back to the moon, and on to Mars,” Nelson said. “And we’re going to do it together, because in the 21st century, NASA explores the cosmos with international partners. We will unlock new knowledge and understanding. We’ve always dreamed about what more is ahead. Why? Because it’s in our DNA. It’s part of us. It’s who we are, as adventurers, as explorers, as frontierspeople.”
Dozens of astronauts and scores of VIPs attended today’s big reveal at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas. Joe Acaba — the chief of the Astronaut Office — joked onstage about the secrecy that surrounded the selection of the four Artemis II crew members. “I’ll give you one hint: I am not one of them,” he said, drawing a laugh. “Don’t be so happy about that.”
Metaphorically speaking, the stage was set for Artemis II last fall when NASA’s Space Launch System sent an uncrewed Orion deep-space capsule on a weeks-long Artemis I mission around the moon and back. That 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 put astronauts on the lunar surface in late 2025.
The flight plan for the 10-day Artemis II mission, officially planned for November 2024, is analogous to the Apollo 8 round-the-moon mission in 1968. As was the case for Artemis I, the trip would begin with an SLS launch — but this time with people instead of test dummies inside the Orion capsule. After an initial systems checkout in high Earth orbit, the crew would fly past the moon and then make a gravity-assisted turnaround 6,400 miles beyond lunar orbit. The return to Earth would feature a 25,000 mph re-entry and an Apollo-style splashdown.
“Am I excited? Absolutely,” Christina Koch, who would become the first woman to see the moon’s far side with her own eyes, told today’s audience. “But my real question is, are you excited? I see you and I ask that, because the one thing I’m most excited about is that we are going to carry your excitement, your aspirations, your dreams with us on this mission.”
Jeremy Hansen, the only space rookie on the Artemis II crew, gave a shout-out to America’s leadership in space and Canada’s “can-do attitude.” His role on the mission recognizes Canadian contributions to NASA’s space effort, including the robotic arms for the space shuttle and the International Space Station as well as a lunar utility vehicle that Canadian companies are building for moon missions.
“For decades now, literally thousands upon thousands of Canadians have risen to that challenge to bring real value to the international partnership with respect to space exploration, to bring real solutions,” Hansen said.
Victor Glover, who became the first Black astronaut to join a long-duration crew on the International Space Station in 2020, said the hoopla surrounding the Artemis II mission had a Hollywood feel to it. “I feel like Denzel Washington should be up here talking to you, but you just got us,” he said with a laugh.
“Human spaceflight is like a relay race,” Glover said. “And that baton has been passed from generation to generation, and from crew member to crew member, from Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Apollo-Soyuz, Skylab, Mir, the shuttle, International Space Station, commercial crew and now the Artemis missions. We understand our role in that. And when we have the privilege of having that baton, we’re going to do our best to run a good race, to make you proud.”
Artemis II commander Reid Wiseman closed out the ceremony with a round of thanks to NASA’s workforce, its international partners — and particularly to his fellow astronauts, including the International Space Station’s current crew.
“If any of you over there are looking for heroes, go Google these folks, because they’re our heroes,” Wiseman said.
To save you a Google search, here are the basic stats for Artemis II’s crew:
Commander Reid Wiseman
Hometown: Baltimore, Md.
Background: Naval aviator, test pilot, selected to become astronaut in 2009.
Spaceflight experience: Expedition 40/41 on International Space Station, 2014.
Pilot Victor Glover
Hometown: Pomona, Calif.
Background: Naval aviator, test pilot, selected as NASA astronaut in 2013.
Spaceflight experience: SpaceX Crew-1 and Expedition 64 on 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 U.S. Antarctic Program, electrical engineer at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, researcher at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, selected as NASA astronaut in 2013.
Spaceflight experience: Expedition 59/60/61 on International Space Station, 2019-2020.
Mission specialist Jeremy Hansen (Canada)
Hometown: London, Ontario
Background: Fighter pilot, selected as Canadian Space Agency astronaut in 2009.
Training experience: Cave test subject with European Space Agency’s CAVES program in 2013, aquanaut with NEEMO 19 underwater test program in 2014.
And here are a few reactions from notables on Twitter: