We are soon going to learn the identities of the four astronauts who will strap into the Orion spacecraft and travel farther into space than any crew before.
NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) will announce the astronauts for the upcoming Artemis 2 mission on April 3, according to a statement released on Friday. The highly anticipated announcement will take place at NASA’s Johnson Space Center’s Ellington Field in Houston at 11 a.m. ET and will air live on the space agency’s website and NASA Television.
“Traveling aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft during Artemis II, the mission is the first crewed flight test on the agency’s path to establishing a long-term scientific and human presence on the lunar surface,” NASA wrote in its statement.
Artemis 2 is a crucial part of the Artemis lunar program, currently slated for launch sometime in 2024. The mission will launch a crew of four astronauts on board the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which will loft the Orion capsule to Earth orbit. With the Artemis 2 crew tucked inside Orion, the spacecraft will fly by the Moon before returning back to Earth.
The Orion capsule has already gone to the Moon and back as part of the Artemis 1 mission, an initial test flight to ensure the successful integration of the spacecraft with the SLS rocket. But Artemis 1 didn’t have a crew on board, so its successor will mark the first time that a crew has traveled to the Moon since the days of the Apollo mission over 50 years ago.
Although Artemis 2 will not land astronauts on the lunar surface, it will pave the way for Artemis 3 which is designed to touch down on the Moon no earlier than 2025.
In anticipation of the Artemis 2 launch, there has been speculation over who will be selected as part of the four-person crew. In August 2022, Reid Wiseman, chief astronaut at NASA, said that all of NASA’s 42 active astronauts were eligible for the lunar trip. The space agency had previously announced a select group of 18 astronauts for its Artemis program in December 2020 that included Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, who took part in the first all-female spacewalks, as well as Jessica Watkins, the first Black woman to embark on a long-term mission in space and the first to live and work on the ISS.
Canada has been a member of the Artemis program from the very beginning. In December 2020, NASA and CSA announced an agreement to fly a Canadian astronaut on board Artemis 2. Canada will also provide the Canadarm 3, a robotic arm that will be attached to the Lunar Gateway as part of the Artemis program. Another Canadian astronaut will fly to the gateway sometime in the future.
Overall, the selection process for the Artemis astronauts is kept tightly under wraps so it will be hard to tell who’s gearing up for that lunar flight until the April announcement.
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