HOUSTON – As NASA prepares to select the crew for the second Artemis mission, the agency’s chief astronaut says the entire astronaut corps, and not a previously announced subset, is eligible for that flight and future missions to the moon.
At a briefing Aug. 5 at the Johnson Space Center about the upcoming uncrewed Artemis 1 mission, Reid Weisman, chief executive of the astronaut office, said he expected the four-person crew to fly Artemis 2 to be selected soon.
“The question everyone will be asking is when will we be crewing Artemis 2? We hope that will be later this year,” he said. That mission is expected to launch no earlier than 2024.
Artemis 2 will be the first crewed flight of Orion, orbiting the moon on a flight lasting about 10 days. The crew will include one Canadian astronaut as part of a December 2020 agreement between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency regarding the Canadian contribution to the Canadarm3 robotic arm for the Moon Portal.
NASA has not said whether any other international partners, such as Europe or Japan, will fly astronauts on Artemis 2. As for the agency’s own astronauts, Wiseman said the entire 42-person astronaut corps will be considered for that mission and on later Artemis flights.
“The way I look at it, any of our 42 active astronauts are eligible for the Artemis mission,” he said, a point he emphasized several times during the briefing. “We want to put together the right team for this mission.”
That’s a change from late 2020, when NASA unveiled an “Artemis Team” of 18 astronauts that agency leadership at the time, along with then-Vice President Mike Pence, would join us from NASA would select crews for at least an initial. Missions of Artemis.
“My fellow Americans, I give you the heroes of the future who will take us back to the moon and beyond, the Artemis generation,” Pence said at a National Space Council meeting in December 2020 when he announced the 18 astronauts would be part of the team. . Five of the 18 attended that meeting at the Kennedy Space Center.
Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator at the time, said more astronauts would be added in the future, including those from international partners. “This is our first cadre of Artemis astronauts,” Bridenstine said. “I want to be clear: there will be more.”
Wiseman stressed, however, that he would consider all current astronauts, as well as 10 astronaut candidates currently in training. “We have 42 active astronauts here in Houston and 10 candidate astronauts who will be knocking down the door for Artemis 2 and beyond,” he said.
He added that NASA has changed lifetime radiation exposure requirements, which previously varied by age and gender, to an individual limit. A June 2021 National Academies report endorsed such a proposal, noting that it creates “equality of opportunity for spaceflight” over previous standards that set lower limits for women.
Wiseman said those earlier “dragonian” standards had been replaced by a single limit. “We have leveled all radiation limits. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a man, whether you’re a woman, you’re the same.”
“Our ultimate goal is a half male, half female United States of America. Well, there should be a space like that at least,” he said. “If we can’t make these spacecraft fair, and we can’t fly any kind of human on them, then we have to look at our systems and reassess.”
There are also no age restrictions on Artemis mission assignments, he said, noting that the astronaut corps includes people ranging in age from their late 20s to mid-60s. “As long as you’re healthy, we’re going to load you onto a rocket and drop you off the planet.”