Christina Koch, 44, an engineer who already holds the record for the longest continuous spaceflight by a woman and was part of NASA’s first three all-female spacewalks, was named as a mission specialist for the Artemis II lunar flight is expected as early as next year.
She will be accompanied by Victor Glover, a 46-year-old US Navy aviator and veteran of four spacewalks who NASA has designated as the pilot of Artemis II. He becomes the first black astronaut ever to be sent on a moon mission.
Joining the crew are Jeremy Hansen, a Colonel of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the first Canadian ever elected to fly to the Moon, as mission specialist, and Reid Wiseman, another former US Navy fighter pilot, who has been appointed mission commander . Both are 47.
All three NASA astronauts opted for the Artemis II mission are veterans of previous expeditions aboard the International Space Station. Hansen, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut, is a spaceflight rookie.
The quartet was introduced at a pep rally-style event attended by journalists, local elementary school students and aerospace industry leaders broadcast from Houston at the Johnson Space Center, NASA’s mission control base.
“The Artemis II crew represents thousands of people who work tirelessly to take us to the stars. This is the crew of humanity,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said on stage. ‘We go.’
US President Joe Biden personally called the four on Sunday to congratulate them, the White House said.
Artemis II marks the first crewed flight — but not the first lunar landing — of an Apollo successor program that aims to return astronauts to the lunar surface later this decade and eventually establish a sustainable outpost there as a springboard to future human exploration of Mars.
The kickoff Artemis I mission was successfully completed in December 2022, marking the inaugural launch of NASA’s powerful next-generation mega rocket and the newly built Orion spacecraft on an uncrewed test flight that lasted 25 days.
The goal of the 10-day Artemis II trip around the Moon and back, is to demonstrate that all of Orion’s life support devices and other systems will operate as designed with astronauts on board in deep space.
Artemis II will venture some 10,300 km beyond the far side of the moon before returning, marking the closest pass humans have made since time to Earth’s natural satellite Apollo 17which brought Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt to the lunar surface in December 1972.
They were the last of 12 NASA astronauts – all white males – to walk on the moon for six hours Apollo missions that started in 1969 with Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin.
MOON FLIGHT PLAN
At its farthest from Earth, Artemis II is expected to reach a point more than 370,000 km away. The typical altitude in low Earth orbit of the International Space Station is about 400 km above the planet.
Launched into orbit atop NASA’s two-stage Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the Artemis II crew practices manual maneuvers with the Orion spacecraft before being returned to ground control for further testing and the lunar flight portion of the mission.
After a loop around the moon, Orion will use the gravity of the Earth and the Moon to send it on a propulsion-free return flight that lasts about four more days and ends in a splash at sea.
If Artemis II succeeds, NASA plans to follow a few years later with an unprecedented landing at the south pole of the moon with astronauts, including a woman, on Artemis III. Further crewed missions would follow about once a year.
Compared to the ApolloBorn out of the space race between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Artemis is a more broadly based program, enlisting commercial partners such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and the space agencies of Canada, Europe and Japan.
It marks a major diversion from NASA’s ambitions for human spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit after decades of focusing on flights to and from the space station.