NASA Artemis II crew announcement: Astronauts for mission to orbit moon

For the first time in over 50 years, NASA is sending a crew to orbit the moon. During an event at Ellington Field in Houston Monday morning, the agency revealed which astronauts will be a part of the mission.

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The mission is scheduled to launch in 2024. The crew will consist of NASA astronauts Commander Reid Wiseman, Pilot Victor Glover, and Mission Specialist 1 Christina Hammock Koch, as well as Canadian Space Agency astronaut Mission Specialist 2 Jeremy Hansen.

Official crew portrait for Artemis II, from left: NASA Astronauts Christina Koch, Victor Glover, Reid Wiseman (seated), Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Jeremy Hansen. (PHOTOGRAPHER: Josh Valcarcel via NASA)

Before a packed crowd at Ellington Field Monday morning, NASA officials announced Christina Hammock Koch as the first Artemis II crew member that will orbit into deep space in late 2024. 

"She's an engineer who got her start at Goddard and is no stranger to breaking records, logging the longest continuous space flight ever by a woman, your mission specialist, Christina Hammock Koch," said NASA Administrator, Bill Nelson.

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Koch will be joined by fellow mission specialist Jeremy Hansen, Pilot Victor Glover, and Commander Reid Wiseman on a 10-day journey to circle the moon. 

"We’ll be doing a check out of the Orion systems over about a 24-hour period and that’s to ensure that the spacecraft is in good working order and that we got the life support systems; everything ready for the crew," said Jeff Radigan, the Flight Director for Artemis II.

Together, these four astronauts are making history as the first people to fly to the lunar surface in 50 years. 

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The mission will also mark Hansen as the first Canadian to orbit the moon, Glover as the first astronaut of color to orbit the moon, and Koch as the first woman to orbit the moon.

"It’s an honor to be here. It's an honor to be a part of a mission that’s going to be paving the way back to the moon this time to stay and then on to Mars, and that’s the way I look at it, not necessarily any one individual's achievement but the achievement of everyone on the team," said Christina Hammock Koch, a NASA Artemis II Astronaut.

For Koch, this is a dream come true. 

"This has been my dream ever since I was a little girl and I have people telling me they don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an astronaut. And I think what it means to me is that I think the people that never discouraged me, the people that told me they believed in me, so I hope what people remember is to tell the people around you, you believe in them because you never know what that might end up meaning for them," Koch said.


NASA officials said the mission will pave the way to return to the lunar surface with Artemis III in 2025 and eventually for mankind to explore Mars.  

"This is the next stepping stone for when we’re going to sustain ourselves not just for days at a time, but months at a time and be further away from Earth, and then we’ll take the next step and take the systems to Mars," Radigan said. 

Artemis II will be the program’s first mission to orbit the moon with this crew flying farther into space than any person since the Apollo program ended in 1972.

The flight, which is expected to last about 10 days, will test the path around the lunar surface and soon help establish human presence there.

This mission will pave the way for the Artemis III crew to walk on the moon in 2025, and NASA has vowed to put the first woman and person of color on the moon.

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This also comes after a successful Artemis I launch late last year. The mission was unmanned and used to test the Orion spacecraft and the space launch system, the most powerful rocket ever used.