(CNN) Four astronauts — including three Americans and one Canadian — will be tapped by NASA to complete a generation-defining mission to orbit the moon, returning humans deeper into the solar system than they have reached in five decades.
On Monday, the public will finally learn the names of the crew members.
Scheduled for launch in 2024, Artemis II will be the program’s first crewed mission to orbit the Moon, the first human flight in space since the Apollo program. This will pave the way for the Artemis III crew to walk on the moon in 2025 The most powerful rocket in the world And a price tag that will communicate that $100 billion.
After months of making decisions behind closed doors, NASA officials plan to unveil the names of the crew members at a ceremony scheduled for Monday at 11 a.m. ET.
Although officials remain tight-lipped about their choices, CNN previously spoke with about a dozen current and former NASA officials and astronauts. Pull the curtain On secret election process.
Name with buzz
Reed Wiseman, a 47-year-old decorated naval aviator and test pilot who was first selected to become a NASA astronaut in 2009, topped the list, according to CNN earlier. Reporting.
Wiseman served as head of the Astronaut Office until November 2022. Although chiefs are not allowed to fly while holding the position, they are able to wrangle the best flight assignments after they step down, a “recognized perk” of the job, according to former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman.
Before stepping down as astronaut chief, Wiseman was also responsible for the decision to expand the pool of flight-eligible astronauts to include himself. Although NASA initially thought so 18 astronauts Wiseman expanded the pool of candidates to 41 active NASA astronauts to become the “Artemis Team” and be eligible to fly on missions to the Moon.
People familiar with the process also told CNN that there are several other candidates at the top of the list along with Wiseman:
- Victor GloverA 46-year-old naval aviator who returned to Earth from his first spaceflight in 2021 A SpaceX crew piloting the second crewed flight Dragon spacecraft And spending about six months on the International Space Station. The veteran of four spacewalks earned a master’s degree in engineering while moonlighting as a test pilot.
- Randy Bresnick, 55, is also a decorated naval aviator and test pilot who flew combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He made two missions to the International Space Station: one in the Space Shuttle, the other in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Bresnik is often cited as Artemis’ top competitor because, as of 2018, he has overseen the Astronaut Office’s development and testing of all rockets and spacecraft that will be used in the Artemis mission.
- Anne McClain43, is a decorated Army pilot and West Point graduate who flew more than 200 combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in 2013, the same year he was selected to become a NASA astronaut after launching on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2018. , he spent more than 200 days aboard the International Space Station and served as the leader of two spacewalks.
- Stephanie Wilson The most senior astronaut on this list. The 56-year-old joined NASA’s astronaut class of 1996 and served as a mission specialist on three space shuttle flights, including the first flight after the 2003 Columbia disaster, which killed seven astronauts.
- Christina Koch, 44, is a veteran of six spacewalks. She holds the record for the longest solo spaceflight by a woman with a total of 328 days in space. Koch is also an electrical engineer who helped build scientific instruments for multiple NASA missions. He also spent a year at the South Pole, a tough position that could prepare him for the rigors of a moon mission.
- Jessica Meyer 45-year-old biologist with a doctorate from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He was a member of a NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission in 2002, which involved spending the day at an underwater research facility, and in 2016, completed a two-week mission. caving mission In Italy.
Koch and Meir manage together First three all-female spacewalks In 2019 and 2020.
Rounding out the Artemis II crew will be an astronaut from Canada, terms cemented in a 2020 agreement between the two countries.
The Canadian Space Agency currently has a A cadre of only four astronautsBut among them, Jeremy Hansen According to CNN’s reporting, generated the most buzz. Hansen was selected to become an astronaut about 14 years ago, but he is still waiting for his first flight assignment. The 47-year-old fighter pilot recently became the first Canadian to be tasked with training a new class of NASA astronauts.
More representation in space
NASA has previously pledged to select a crew with racial, gender and occupational diversity.
Historically these criteria have not been the case for high-profile missions. Going back to the Gemini era, the astronauts selected for the inaugural crewed mission were exclusively white and male and usually came from a background as a military test pilot — a profile prominently featured in Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book “The Right Stuff.”
This has come true through NASA Most recent inaugural crew flightSpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule on the International Space Station in 2020, including former military test pilots Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
And that may be mostly true of the Artemis II mission: About a dozen current and former NASA officials and astronauts told CNN they expected more than one test pilot to be named.
However, if Wiseman, a white man, is selected, that means the other spots will almost certainly go to at least one woman and at least one person of color.
What’s next for Artemis?
Artemis II Mission Artemis I, a uncrewed test missions That sent NASA’s Orion capsule on a 1.4 million-mile journey to the moon that ended in December. The space agency deemed that mission a success and is still working to review all the data collected.
If all goes according to plan, Artemis II will launch around November 2024. Crew members trapped inside the Orion spacecraft will launch atop a NASA-developed Space Launch System rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The journey is expected to last about 10 days and send the crew beyond the Moon, possibly further than any human journey in history, although the exact distance has yet to be determined.
“The exact distance beyond the Moon will depend on the duration of the mission and the Moon’s relative distance from Earth,” NASA spokeswoman Kathryn Hambleton said via email.
After orbiting the Moon, the spacecraft will return to Earth for a splashdown landing in the Pacific Ocean.
Artemis II is expected to pave the way for the Artemis III mission later this decade, which NASA has pledged will put the first woman and person of color on the lunar surface. It will mark the first time humans have landed on the moon since the end of the Apollo program in 1972.
The Artemis III mission is expected to launch later this decade. But the mission will require a lot of technology, incl Space suit For walking on the moon and a Lunar Lander To ferry astronauts to the surface of the Moon, is still in development.
NASA is targeting a 2025 launch date As for Artemis III, though, the space agency’s inspector general has already said delays will likely push the mission 2026 or later.