On Wednesday, NASA announced the astronauts hand-picked for the prestigious Artemis moon program, which plans to send the first woman and next man to the moon in 2024.
Not since Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan stepped off the powdery surface of the moon in 1972 has mankind touched another celestial body. Fifty years later the next person to stand on lunar soil will be one of the 18 selected from an active astronaut pool of 47, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
Vice President Pence announced the Artemis astronauts at the National Space Council meeting held at Kennedy Space Center where every manned mission to the moon launched.
“I give you the heroes of the future, who will carry us back to the moon and beyond -- the Artemis generation.”
The group includes veterans of the space shuttle programs, others who have served on the International Space Station and some awaiting their first space flight.
Half of the astronauts selected were women – one of whom will make history as the first woman on the moon.
Among those chosen were Joseph Acaba, who taught science at Melbourne High School in 1999-2000 school year.
Other notable names among the women include Nicole Mann, currently training for the flight test of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, the first crewed flight for that vehicle. Mann has never been to space.
Jessica Meir, who was also selected, served as a flight engineer for Expedition 61 and 62 on the International Space Station. During her 205 days in space, Meir made history in October 2019 conducting NASA’s first all-female spacewalk with fellow astronaut Christina Koch who was also selected.
Among the men, Victor Glover who recently launched to the International Space Station part of the historic Crew-1 mission was among the chosen.
In 2017, President Trump tasked NASA with sending the first woman to the moon by 2024. The program, dubbed Artemis after the sister of the Greek god Apollo, hinges on NASA’s completion of its heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule both of which have experienced technical issues and delays.
The first crewed mission, Artemis II, will orbit around the Moon similar to the Apollo 8 mission in order to test the Orion spacecraft. It’s slated for 2023. The moon-landing mission, Artemis III could carry up to four astronauts and plans to land for the first time on the lunar South Pole.
Three private companies are competing to build the lander that will carry the astronauts from Orion to the lunar surface. But Congress has not fully funded the $3.3 billion NASA requested for the human landing system.
In September, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in order to stay on track to land in 2024, they need to select one of the companies by February to build the system.
NASA’s Office of Inspector General recently released reports questioning NASA’s ability to achieve this goal by 2024. In addition, it is unclear how the incoming Biden administration will support the timeline set by Trump.
Pence was joined by five of the astronauts and congratulated them on their selection.
“Really is amazing to think that the next man and the first woman on the moon are among the names that we just read and they may be standing in the room with us right now,” he said.
- Joseph Acaba, a geologist and veteran of three space missions
- Kayla Barron, a Naval Academy graduate who has yet to fly in space
- Raja Chari, an Air Force test pilot who has yet to fly in space
- Matthew Dominick, a Navy test pilot who has yet to fly in space
- Victor Glover, currently on the International Space Station as the pilot of SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission.
- Warren Hoburg, a former professor at MIT who has yet to fly in space
- Jonny Kim, a medical doctor and former Navy SEAL who has yet to fly in space
- Christina Hammock Koch, and electrical engineer who already has spent 11 months on the ISS
- Kjell Lindgren, spent 141 days on the ISS in 2015
- Nicole A. Mann, a Naval Academy grad currently training for the flight test of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft
- Anne McClain, A West Point grad who has spent six months on the ISS
- Jessica Meir, a marine biologist and ISS veteran
- Jasmin Moghbeli, a Marine helicopter test pilot who has yet to fly in space
- Kate Rubins, a biologist and ISS veteran
- Frank Rubio, a West Point Grad and medical doctor who has yet to fly in space
- Scott Tingle, a Navy test pilot and ISS veteran
- Jessica Watkins, a geologist who has yet to fly in space
- Stephanie Wilson, a Harvard grad and veteran of three space shuttle flights