NASA has revealed its astronaut candidates for its upcoming mission to the Moon, naming the Artemis Team that will see America once again set foot on the lunar surface. The US space agency has picked 18 astronauts to make up the group initially, and from which the next man, and first woman, to land on the Moon will be selected.
That vision isn’t expected to take place until 2024, though the Artemis Team won’t be idle before then. In 2021, they’ll begin working with NASA’s commercial partners on technology developed to reach the Moon and then land on the lunar surface.
They’ll also help develop training for those missions, define hardware requirements, and consult on technical development. The 18-strong group – an equal split male and female – comprises experts from a wide variety of specialties. That array of talent will be instrumental in making not only the mission earmarked for 2024 a success, but also fulfilling NASA’s goal of establishing a lasting human presence on the Moon by the end of the decade.
Of course, not all 18 will be headed out into space at the same time. “NASA will announce flight assignments for astronauts later, pulling from the Artemis Team,” the agency said of its plans. “Additional Artemis Team members, including international partner astronauts, will join this group, as needed.”
Before they head out, NASA will pave the way with a long list of science investigations and technology experiments. Beginning in 2021, that process will tap the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, part of NASA’s partnerships with the commercial sector to make space exploration more affordable and sustainable.
Some of the 18, for example, are currently training on those commercial spacecraft. Astronaut Nicole A. Mann, for instance, is currently training as pilot for the Crew Flight Test of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, which the aircraft firm has been developing to NASA’s requirements.
“There is so much exciting work ahead of us as we return to the moon, and it will take the entire astronaut corps to make that happen,” Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester said. “Walking on the lunar surface would be a dream come true for any one of us, and any part we can play in making that happen is an honor. I am proud of this particular group of men and women and know that any of them would do an outstanding job representing NASA and the United States on a future Artemis mission.”
While establishing a Moon base is one of NASA’s goals, it also paves the way to further exploration of the solar system. The Moon will form a staging post for NASA’s eventual crewed mission to Mars, for example.