HOUSTON – For the first time in more than half a century, NASA has assigned a crew of astronauts to the Moon.
They are Reed Wiseman, the mission commander. Victor Glover, the pilot; Christina Koch, Mission Specialist; and Jeremy Hansen, also a mission specialist. The first three are NASA astronauts, while Mr. Hansen is a member of the Canadian Space Agency.
“So am I excited?” Koch said during a crew unveiling event at Ellington Field, a small airfield used by NASA to train astronauts. “Absolutely. But my real question is: Are you excited?”
The assembled crowd cheered in response.
It’s a major step in NASA’s Artemis program to send astronauts to the lunar surface to explore cold regions near the moon’s south pole where water ice can be found in deep, dark craters. From the experiment on the moon, NASA hopes to chart a course for putting humans on Mars, while scientists expect to use what’s out there to answer questions about how the solar system formed.
“Together, we’ll go — to the Moon, to Mars, and beyond,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
But the four astronauts who will be aboard the next mission, Artemis II, will not land on the moon.
Instead, travelers will take a 10-day trip swinging around the moon and back to Earth. Currently scheduled for late next year, it will be the first time humans have ventured more than a few hundred miles away from the planet since the return of Apollo 17, NASA’s last lunar mission, in 1972.
“It’s an exciting time for the people of Artemis, there’s no doubt about that,” Harrison Schmidt, the last surviving Apollo 17 astronaut, said in an interview. He added that many people “didn’t fully realize that we’re about three generations away from any experience with humans in deep space, and that’s probably the most important part of the mission.”
Dr. Schmidt, also a former US senator, said he wasn’t necessarily surprised it took so long. He said, “I’d like to say I’m frustrated.” “A lot of things conspired to stop the Apollo program and keep us from coming back for a long time.”
The astronauts of 2023 are very different from the pioneers of the Moon Race era. During the Apollo program, 24 astronauts flew to the Moon, and 12 of them climbed onto the surface. All of them were Americans. They were all white men, many of whom were test pilots.
This time, the Astronaut Corps reflects a broader segment of society.
During the event, Mr. Wiseman said it was “fantastic” to lead such a diverse international crew.
Mr. Glover was the commander of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon’s first operational mission to the International Station and was the first black man to serve as a crew member on the orbital outpost.
Mrs. Koch would be the first woman to venture beyond low Earth orbit, and Mr. Hansen, as a Canadian, the first non-American to travel that far.
Mr. Hansen noted that the United States could have carried out the Artemis missions on its own by opting instead for international cooperation with Canada and the European Space Agency. That agreement reserved a seat for a Canadian astronaut on Artemis II.
“All of Canada is grateful for that global mindset and leadership,” said Mr. Hansen.
Mr. Wiseman said he wants moon missions “to bring our country together, to bring the world together.
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