After much anticipation, NASA has revealed the names of the crew that will fly around the moon as part of the space agency’s historic Artemis 2 mission.
The four astronauts selected are NASA’s Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover and Christina Hammock Koch, as well as Jeremy Hansen from the Canadian Space Agency. The crew has more racial and gender diversity than that of any previous moon mission: Glover will be the first person of color on a lunar mission, while Koch will be the first woman on a lunar mission, according to a NASA statement.
This will be the second trip to space for Wiseman, Glover and Koch, who have each spent time aboard the International Space Station—about six months for Wiseman and Glover and close to a year for Koch. Hansen will be a rookie space traveler.
NASA’s Artemis program aims to land the first person of color and first woman on the moon, establish a long-term presence on the lunar surface and prepare for sending the first astronauts to Mars. Late last year, the Artemis 1 mission performed a successful test of the program’s equipment as an uncrewed Orion space capsule orbited the moon. NASA collected data on the capsule’s performance and safety for future passengers.
Now, with Artemis 2, the agency plans to send humans on the farthest crewed trip into space since the Apollo program, according to CNN’s Jackie Wattles and Kristin Fisher. The ten-day mission is slated to launch no sooner than late 2024. As with Artemis 1 in November, the Orion spacecraft will launch from NASA’s Space Launch System rocket—but this time, it’ll be carrying humans. The astronauts will make sure Orion’s systems function as they are supposed to with people aboard in deep space.
But on this mission, astronauts will not walk on the moon. This is in part because Artemis 2 needs to test new technology that has never been used during spaceflight, according to Space.com’s Brett Tingley. Additionally, important equipment that would help get astronauts to and from the lunar surface, such as the lunar lander, haven’t been completed yet, per the publication.
“We’re not going to go to the moon right away,” says Koch, per ABC News’s Mary Kekatos and Kiara Alfonseca. “We’re gonna stay in an amazing high orbit, reaching a peak of tens of thousands of miles while we test out all the systems on Orion and even see how it maneuvers in space. And then if everything looks good, we’re heading to the moon.”
As the four astronauts fly around the moon, they’ll pass within roughly 6,500 miles of its far side, according to NASA.
The “exact distance beyond the moon will depend on the day of liftoff and the relative distance of the moon from the Earth at the time of the mission,” NASA spokesperson Kathryn Hambleton tells CNN via email.
Artemis 3, which will aim to land astronauts on the moon for the first time since 1972, likely won’t launch before 2026, according to CNN. With it, NASA aims to increase the diversity of people who have been to the lunar surface—between 1969 and 1972, twelve people walked on the moon, and all were white men.
This newly announced crew will lay the groundwork for the next moon mission.
“The Artemis 2 mission will be challenging, and we’ll test our limits as we prepare to put future astronauts on the moon,” says Norm Knight, director of flight operations at NASA Johnson Space Center, in the statement. “I could not be prouder that these brave four will kickstart our journeys to the moon and beyond. They represent exactly what an astronaut corps should be: a mix of highly capable and accomplished individuals with the skills and determination to take on any trial as a team.”