NASA is set to reveal the names of the four astronauts who will make up the crew for Artemis II, the next mission in the agency’s Artemis program, which aims to send astronauts to the moon in 2025, over 50 years after the last manned mission to the lunar surface. The mission, scheduled no earlier than the end of 2024, will see three American and one Canadian astronaut circle the moon before returning to Earth, but they will not land on the moon this time around.
NASA is live streaming the announcement from the Johnson Space Center in Houston on Monday at 11 a.m. Eastern time on NASA TV and YouTube. The first Artemis mission concluded in December 2020 with the Orion capsule returning safely to Earth after a 25-day trip around the moon. Artemis II will be the first manned mission in the program.
The crew of Artemis II will travel on an elliptical orbit in an Orion capsule that loops as far out as 1,800 miles above Earth, providing the crew with time to observe how Orion’s systems function. The spacecraft will then head towards the moon and use its gravity to sling back towards Earth for a Pacific Ocean splashdown, with the entire trip expected to last around 10 days.
NASA officials believe that the moon missions will play a significant role in its human spaceflight program, and not just as a repeat of the Apollo lunar journeys between 1968 to 1972. Longer missions on the moon will prepare astronauts for future journeys to Mars, according to NASA, and the agency hopes to stimulate the development of a steady business of flying scientific instruments and other payloads to the moon.
The four astronauts for Artemis II will be selected from a group of 41 active NASA astronauts, with three NASA astronauts currently aboard the International Space Station ineligible, and others busy with upcoming assignments. If these astronauts remain in the corps after returning home, they, along with other candidates, may have a chance to join the crew of Artemis III, with two astronauts slated to land on the moon during that mission, scheduled no earlier than 2025.