Posted on April 4, 2023

NASA Names Diverse Astronaut Crew for Artemis II Moon Mission

Kenneth Chang, New York Times, April 3, 2023

For the first time in more than half a century, NASA has named a crew of astronauts headed to the moon.

Humans have not ventured more than a few hundred miles off the planet since the return of Apollo 17, NASA’s last moon mission, in 1972. After Artemis’s experience on the moon, NASA hopes to chart a path to putting humans on Mars, while scientists expect to use what is found there to answer questions about how the solar system formed.

Astronauts in 2023 are much different from those when the United States was in a race to beat the Soviet Union to the moon. During the Apollo program, 24 astronauts flew to the moon, and 12 of them stepped on the surface. All of them were Americans. All of them were white men, many of whom were test pilots.

This time, the astronaut corps reflects a much wider swath of society.

They are Reid Wiseman, the mission’s 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.

“When we were selecting astronauts back then,” Mr. Glover said in an interview, “we intended to select the same person, just multiple copies.”

Ms. Koch will be the first woman to venture beyond low-Earth orbit, and Mr. Hansen, as a Canadian, the first non-American to travel that far.

“So am I excited?” Ms. Koch said during an event unveiling the crew at Ellington Field, a small airport used by NASA for the training of astronauts. “Absolutely. But my real question is: are you excited?”

The assembled crowd cheered in response.

The mission is a major step in NASA’s Artemis program to send astronauts back to the surface of the moon to explore the cold regions near the moon’s south pole. Water ice found in deep dark craters there could supply water and oxygen for future astronauts as well as fuel for missions deeper into space.

“Together, we are going — to the Moon, to Mars, and beyond,” said Bill Nelson, the NASA administrator.

But the four astronauts aboard this next mission, Artemis II, will not land on the moon.

Instead, the travelers will take a 10-day journey that will swing around the moon and come back to Earth. It is currently scheduled for late next year.


Mr. Hansen noted that the United States could have undertaken the Artemis missions by itself but instead chose to pull together an international collaboration 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 mind-set and that leadership,” Mr. Hansen said.

Mr. Glover, who was the first Black man to serve as a crew member on the International Space Station, said that diversity was “an important aim of the agency and our partners.”

“But it was also going to happen organically because of the corps that we have that represents America so well,” he said.