Science and Exploration

“We’re Going” – NASA Announces Artemis II Crew

By Leonard David
April 3, 2023
Filed under , , , ,
“We’re Going” – NASA Announces Artemis II Crew
During last year’s Artemis I mission, Orion captured this view of Earth and the Moon on either sides of one of the spacecraft’s four solar arrays. Image credit: NASA

NASA today unveiled the crew of the Artemis II flight that will fly past the Moon and return to Earth in 2024.

Reid Wiseman will serve as mission commander, with Victor Glover as pilot, joined by mission specialists Christina Koch and Canadian Jeremy Hansen.

The event was held at NASA Johnson Space Center’s Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, having all the flair of the then newly-formed space agency’s unveiling of the “Original Seven” Mercury astronauts back in April 1959.

This Artemis II crew of Wiseman, Glover, Koch and Hansen will sojourn around the Moon, travel now eyed for November 2024. The four-person team would make the roughly 10-day trek secure in their Orion spacecraft – the first piloted spacecraft to travel lunar distance, or beyond low Earth orbit for that matter, since December 1972 – the final flight of the U.S. Apollo Moon landing program.

Artemis II crew
Artemis II crew

As the Artemis generation of star sailors and dreamers, “We are going,” said Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator during the occasion.

“The mission is significant in many ways,” Nelson added. “It’s a message to the world. We chose to go back to the Moon and then on to Mars, and we’re going to do it together, because in the 21st century NASA explores the cosmos with international partners.”

Nelson said that in Artemis II, “this is humanity’s crew.”

Hybrid free return trajectory

NASA’s first Artemis mission was flown in December of last year; an uncrewed Orion capsule parachuted back to Earth following its 25-day shakeout journey around the Moon.

The four-person Artemis II mission would depart NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop a Space Launch System rocket, circle the Earth, and then perform a translunar injection burn, sending the crew on a hybrid free return trajectory. Taking that route, the piloted Orion spacecraft is placed on a lunar free return trajectory. Earth’s gravity will naturally pull Orion back toward home planet after crew and capsule skirt by the Moon.

“Human spaceflight is like a relay race,” Glover noted. Over the decades, that baton has been passed generation to generation he said, from crewmember to crewmember. “We have the privilege of having that baton. We’re going to do our best to run a good race…to make you proud,” he said.

Up-close, faraway views

Once off the ground, the Artemis II crew will have a full agenda of appraising the Orion craft as it circles the Earth prior to rocketing toward the Moon. They are being trained to evaluate life support systems, judge communication and navigation systems and other spacecraft functions.

Projected flight of Artemis II, the first flight with crew aboard NASA’s deep space exploration system designed to support a U.S. return to the Moon. Image credit: NASA

“We’re going to ride that rocket for 8 minutes into Earth orbit. We’re not going to the Moon right away,” observed Koch. “We’re going to stay in an amazing high orbit reaching a peak of tens of thousands of miles while we test out all the systems on Orion and even see how it maneuvers in space. And then if everything looks good, we’re heading to the Moon,” she said.

Whisking 6,400 miles beyond the far side of the Moon, the crew will soak in up-close views of the lunar landscape and the Earth nearly a quarter-million miles distant.

With a return trip of about four days, the overall Artemis II undertaking is expected to last just over 10 days.

A successful crewed Artemis II flight is to be followed by the landing of the first woman and first person of color on the Moon. That Artemis III mission is presently planned for late 2025. This expeditionary crew would touch down in a still-to-be identified region near the lunar south pole.
Canada contribution

The selection of Canada’s Hansen for Artemis II would make Canada the second nation to have an astronaut fly around the Moon.

Canada has officially announced its participation in NASA’s Artemis initiative, providing a smart robotic system known as Canadarm3 for the projected Gateway, a mini-space station that is to orbit the Moon, and is engaged in providing a Canadian lunar exploration rover. In return, the country is set to gain a noteworthy role at the Artemis table in “lunar science, technology demonstration and commercial activities, as well as two astronaut flights to the Moon,” according to a Canadian Space Agency statement.

Leonard David

Leonard is author of Moon Rush: The New Space Race, Mars – Our Future on the Red Planet, and co-authored with Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin of Mission to Mars – My Vision for Space Exploration - all published by the National Geographic Society.