(WASHINGTON) NASA promised Thursday that on April 3 it will announce the names of the four astronauts who will orbit the Moon next year as part of the Artemis 2 mission.
They will be the first humans to travel to the moon since the last Apollo mission in 1972, more than half a century ago.
NASA chief Bill Nelson said the crew would consist of “three Americans and a Canadian.”
An official from the US space agency said earlier in the week that the launch date is currently set for November 2024.
The four astronauts will be aboard NASA’s SLS rocket, the most powerful rocket in the world today. They’ll sit on top of that rocket in an Orion capsule, which will detach once in space and take them to the moon — without landing there. Once back, they will land in the ocean.
The mission will last about ten days.
The Moon is located 1,000 times farther from Earth than the International Space Station (ISS), where NASA astronauts are permanently located.
The SLS rocket has so far only launched once, during the Artemis 1 mission. It then propelled the empty Orion capsule to the Moon, during a test mission that lasted more than 25 days. The capsule successfully returned to Earth in December.
All “active” astronauts (there are currently 41) are officially eligible to be part of Artemis 2. But the selection process is kept top secret.
At the end of last August, the head of the Astronaut Office at the time, Reed Wiseman, said he was looking above all for technical expertise and team spirit among the lucky ones. He has since left his post and is among the eligible astronauts.
The new Chief of Astronautics, Joe Acaba, has just replaced him and is at the forefront of the decision-making process.
Unselected astronauts can rest easy hoping they will be selected to participate in Artemis 3, which will be the first mission to land on the Moon.
It’s officially scheduled for the end of 2025, though the timeline is very uncertain at this point.
The spacesuits for this third mission, developed by the American company Axiom Space, will be presented next week in Houston, Texas.
On Thursday, Bill Nelson spoke at the announcement of Joe Biden’s draft budget. This budget includes $27.2 billion for NASA, up just over 7% from the previous year.
“Hardcore beer fanatic. Falls down a lot. Professional coffee fan. Music ninja.”