Updated: Aug 3
The Artemis Mission, NASA's ambitious program to return humans to the Moon and beyond, is about to enter an exciting new phase. NASA recently announced the four astronauts who will embark on the Artemis II mission, the first crewed mission to fly around the Moon in over half a century. This historic mission is part of NASA's efforts to establish a sustainable presence on the lunar surface and pave the way for future Mars exploration.
The Artemis II crew comprises three American astronauts and one Canadian astronaut, each bringing a unique set of skills and experiences to the mission. This article will explore the background of the Artemis Mission, introduce the exceptional astronauts chosen for Artemis II, and delve into the mission's objectives and timeline.
The Artemis Mission
The Artemis Mission is NASA's bold plan to return humans to the Moon and eventually send astronauts to Mars. Named after the Greek goddess of the Moon and twin sister of Apollo, the program builds on the legacy of the Apollo missions while leveraging modern technology and international partnerships to reach new heights in space exploration.
The Artemis program comprises several missions, starting with the uncrewed Artemis I, which tested the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft in November 2022. Artemis II will be the first crewed mission, followed by Artemis III, which aims to land astronauts on the lunar surface for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972.
NASA Artemis II crew will be the first to fly to the Moon in over 50 years. (Image credit: NASA)
NASA's Artemis Mission is a collaborative endeavor involving several international partners, including the Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency. The inclusion of a Canadian astronaut on the Artemis II crew signifies the global cooperation and shared vision required to explore the Moon and beyond, fostering innovation and progress on an international scale.
The Artemis II Crew
NASA recently unveiled the four astronauts who will make history on the Artemis II mission. They include Commander Reid Wiseman, Pilot Victor Glover, Mission Specialist Christina Koch, and Canadian Mission Specialist Jeremy Hansen. These astronauts will break new ground as the first humans to travel beyond low Earth orbit since the Apollo era and set the stage for future lunar landings and Mars missions.
Commander Reid Wiseman is a seasoned astronaut with a wealth of spaceflight experience. He first traveled to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2014 for a 165-day mission, during which he conducted two spacewalks and participated in over 300 scientific experiments. Wiseman has a strong background in aviation, having served as a Naval Aviator and test pilot before joining NASA in 2009.
Pilot Victor Glover made history during his first spaceflight in 2020 as the first Black man to serve as a crew member on the ISS. He spent six months aboard the space station as part of the SpaceX Crew-1 mission and participated in four spacewalks. Glover is a former U.S. Navy pilot, test pilot, and legislative fellow, bringing a diverse skill set to the Artemis II mission.
The Artemis II crew in an Orion simulator at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. (Image credit: NASA)
Mission Specialist Christina Koch is no stranger to breaking boundaries in space. In 2019, she spent nearly 11 months aboard the ISS, setting a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman. Koch has also participated in six spacewalks, including the first all-female spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir. Before joining NASA, Koch worked in space science instrument development and remote scientific field engineering.
Canadian Mission Specialist Jeremy Hansen will make his first spaceflight on the Artemis II mission. A Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot, Hansen has served as CapCom at the Mission Control Center and participated in the European Space Agency's CAVES program and NEEMO 19, a seven-day undersea mission simulating deep-space exploration.
The Artemis II Mission Objectives
The primary objectives of the Artemis II mission revolve around crew safety, vehicle survival, and mission success. The astronauts will spend approximately 10 days in space, during which they will test the Orion spacecraft's subsystems, perform proximity operations, and conduct a free-return trajectory around the Moon.
Crew Safety and Vehicle Survival
Ensuring the safety of the Artemis II crew is paramount. The mission plan includes extensive testing of the spacecraft's life support systems and other critical subsystems. Additionally, Orion will remain in Earth orbit for a day before heading to the Moon, providing the astronauts with an opportunity to address any issues and return quickly if necessary.
The Artemis II mission aims to validate the performance of the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft for future crewed lunar missions. The astronauts will test the spacecraft's subsystems, including emergency and off-nominal conditions, and attempt additional flight test objectives to reduce risk for subsequent missions.
Artemis II Timeline
Artemis II is currently scheduled to launch no earlier than November 2024, marking the first time astronauts will fly aboard the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft.
NASA astronauts greet the crowd at Ellington Field near NASA’s Johnson Space Center on Monday, April 3, 2023. (Image credit: NASA)
The crew's training for the Artemis II mission will begin in June, following pressure suit fittings and other preliminary activities. The astronauts will also support the development of the Orion spacecraft ahead of its first crewed flight.
Launch and Lunar Orbit
After launching on the SLS rocket, the Orion spacecraft will enter an elliptical Earth orbit for about a day, allowing the astronauts to test its subsystems and perform proximity operations. Once the tests are complete, the spacecraft will fire its main engine to place it on a free-return trajectory around the Moon, swinging around the lunar surface without entering orbit.
Splashdown and Recovery
After completing their lunar flyby, the Artemis II crew will return to Earth and splash down in the Pacific Ocean. The successful completion of the Artemis II mission will pave the way for Artemis III, the first crewed lunar landing since the Apollo era.
Beyond Artemis II: Lunar Landings and Mars Exploration
The Artemis Mission represents a critical step in humanity's quest to explore the Moon and Mars. After Artemis II, the Artemis III mission aims to launch no earlier than December 2025, sending a four-person crew to the lunar surface using a Starship lunar lander developed by SpaceX and new lunar spacesuits by Axiom Space.
The long-term vision of the Artemis program encompasses the establishment of a sustainable lunar presence and the eventual exploration of Mars. The Artemis missions will serve as stepping stones, enabling humanity to expand its reach into the cosmos and forge new paths of discovery and innovation.
A New Era of Space Exploration
The Artemis II mission marks a new era of space exploration, as international collaboration propels humanity back to the Moon and beyond. The exceptional astronauts of Artemis II will not only make history as they venture beyond low Earth orbit, but they will also inspire future generations to dream big and continue the pursuit of knowledge and adventure in the final frontier.
As Victor Glover, the Artemis II pilot, eloquently stated during the crew announcement event, "Human spaceflight is a relay race…And when we have the privilege of having that baton, we're going to do our best to run a good race, to make you proud." The Artemis Mission, with its skilled astronauts and groundbreaking objectives, is set to do just that – make humanity proud and pave the way for a brighter future in space exploration.