A Canadian astronaut and three NASA veterans, including one of the world’s most experienced female astronauts, will fly around the moon next year on the first test flight outside Earth’s orbit since the Apollo program ended 50 years ago, the space agency announced Monday.
of NASA Reid Wiseman, Christina Koch And Victor Glover The Canadian will join rookie Jeremy Hansen for an Orion crew capsule Artemis programIts second combat, the first carried a crew bound for the moon. The Artemis II mission is intended to pave the way for the first moon landing – Artemis III – in the 2025-26 timeframe.
Wiseman, Koch and Glover are all veterans of long stays on the International Space Station and Hansen will make his first space flight.
“It’s been more than half a century since astronauts traveled to the moon. Well, folks, that’s about to change. The mission to the moon will launch four pioneers, but it will carry more than astronauts — Artemis II will carry the hopes of millions of people around the world,” NASA said. Administrator Bill Nelson said before introducing the crew.
Navy Capt. Wiseman, 47, a widowed father of two, is a veteran F/A-18F Super Hornet pilot with a master’s in systems engineering. He launched in 2014 aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and spent 165 days on the space station, then served as chief astronaut upon returning to Earth.
Koch, 44, has a master’s degree in electrical engineering with experience in Antarctic research. He launches and expends a Soyuz Almost a full year on board In 2019-20, the lab ventured outside for six spacewalks, including three all-women trips. With an EVA time of 42 hours and 15 minutes, she ranks third on the list of most experienced female spacewalkers
Glover, 46, is a Navy captain, father of four and one of only a half-dozen African Americans in NASA’s astronaut corps. He flew to the station aboard the first operational SpaceX Crew Dragon mission in 2021-22, logging 168 days in orbit. Glover is an experienced test pilot with more than 3,000 hours of flight time and more than 400 career landings.
Hansen, a 47-year-old colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces and father of three, is an experienced F-18 fighter pilot. He will be the ninth Canadian to fly into space and the first to venture beyond Earth’s orbit.
A Canadian seat on historic missions recognizes Canada’s development of the robotic arm that was key to assembling the International Space Station and the ongoing development of another arm for NASA’s planned Gateway lunar orbit outpost.
President Joe Biden mentioned the Artemis II mission in a speech to Canada’s parliament last month.
“We’d love to go back to the moon together,” he said. “And from there, we look to Mars and the endless possibilities beyond. And here on Earth, our children who see this flight are going to learn the names of those pioneers. They will be the ones who will lead us to the future of the Artemis generation we want to build.”
NASA is focused on operating the space station by 2030 while transitioning to deep space exploration with the Artemis mission to the Moon and, eventually, piloted flights to Mars. How far a Mars mission might be is anyone’s guess, but NASA wants to land astronauts on the moon again within the next few years.
As the Obama administration was winding down, NASA was tentatively planning to return to the moon by the end of the decade. But the Trump administration ordered the agency to accelerate those plans, initially calling for astronauts to land on the moon by the end of 2024 — a clearly unrealistic expectation then and now.
Those plans eventually evolved into what NASA calls the Artemis program, a series of missions designed to establish a long-term presence on and around the Moon.
With ongoing development of the SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft, which will be tested on the Artemis II mission, NASA has hired SpaceX to build a lunar lander based on the company’s yet-to-fly Starship rocket design.
At the same time, NASA contractors are building a mini space station, Gateway, that will be robotically integrated into lunar orbit to serve as a research outpost and staging base for flights to and from the surface.
For Artemis, NASA is targeting the moon’s south pole, where data from the spacecraft’s orbits suggests that permanently shadowed craters may contain ice deposits. The ice could provide future astronauts with a valuable source of air, water and rocket propellants – hydrogen and oxygen – to facilitate future deep space exploration.
The The first Artemis missionLaunched last October, the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System Moon rocket sent an unmanned Orion capsule around the moon.
For the Artemis II mission, Wiseman, Glover, Koch and Hansen will be the first astronauts to launch atop the gargantuan SLS rocket and test the Orion capsule in flight.
They will spend a day in a high Earth orbit, test the Orion rendezvous system, and then fire the spacecraft’s service module engine to put the craft on a trajectory that will take the crew beyond the moon.
Unlike the historic Apollo 8 crew, which orbited the moon in 1968, the Artemis II crew will not go into orbit or fly within about 5,000 miles of the cratered surface. Instead, they will fly a so-called “free-return” trajectory, using the moon’s gravity to bend the flight path toward Earth and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
Assuming Artemis II goes well, NASA plans to send four more astronauts to the moon — Artemis III — in the 2025-26 timeframe, including the next man and the first woman to walk on the moon.
NASA also said the Artemis program will send the first person of color to the lunar surface, although it is not yet known whether the as-yet-named astronaut will be assigned to the Artemis III crew or a downstream mission.
One of the biggest unknowns at the moment is the status of the starship lander.
The starship relies on SpaceX’s massive super-heavy booster to reach Earth orbit, followed by a series of refueling missions to load it with enough cryogenic propellant to make its way to the Moon. An unmanned lunar rover is planned before combat with the astronauts aboard Artemis III.
SpaceX is preparing to launch the first Super Heavy/Starship in an unmanned test flight around Earth. It remains to be seen whether SpaceX can launch enough test flights in the next two to three years to give NASA the confidence it needs to launch a piloted lunar landing mission.
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