HOUSTON — As NASA prepares to select the crew for the second Artemis mission, the agency’s chief astronaut says the entire astronaut corps, not a previously announced subset, is eligible for this flight and future missions to the moon.
During an Aug. 5 briefing at Johnson Space Center on the upcoming Artemis 1 uncrewed mission, Reid Weisman, the chief of the astronaut office, said he expected the four-person crew that will fly on Artemis 2 will soon be selected.
“The question everyone will ask is when will we assign a crew to Artemis 2? We hope it will be later this year,” he said. This mission should be launched in 2024 at the earliest.
Artemis 2 will be Orion’s first crewed flight, circling the moon in an approximately 10-day flight. The four-person crew will include a Canadian astronaut as part of a December 2020 agreement between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency regarding Canada’s contribution of the Canadarm3 robotic arm for the Lunar Gateway.
NASA hasn’t said whether other international partners, such as Europe or Japan, will fly astronauts on Artemis 2. As for the agency’s own astronauts, Wiseman said all of the 42-person astronaut corps would be considered for this mission and subsequent flights of Artemis.
“From my perspective, any of our 42 active astronauts is eligible for an Artemis mission,” he said, a point he repeatedly emphasized during the briefing. “We want to assemble the right team for this mission.”
That’s a change from late 2020, when NASA unveiled an “Artemis team” of 18 astronauts as the agency’s leadership at the time, along with then-Vice President Mike Pence, said would form a pool from which NASA would select crews for at least initial Artemis missions.
“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 December 2020 National Space Council meeting where he announced the 18 astronauts who would make up the team. . Five of the 18 attended this 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 batch of Artemis astronauts,” Bridenstine said. “I want to be clear: there will be more.”
Wiseman, however, stressed 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 astronaut candidates who will be slamming the door for Artemis 2 and beyond,” he said.
He added that NASA has also changed lifetime radiation exposure requirements, which previously varied by age and gender, to a single limit. A June 2021 report from the National Academies endorsed such a proposal, noting that it “creates equal opportunity for spaceflight” compared to previous standards that set lower limits for women.
Wiseman said those earlier “draconian” standards have been replaced with a single limit. “We have equalized all radiation limits. It doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman, it is exactly the same.
“Our end goal is for the United States of America to be half-male, half-female. Well, space should be at least that,” he said. “If we can’t make those fair spacecraft and we can’t fly any kind of people on them, so we have to look at our systems and re-evaluate them.”
There is also no age limit for Artemis mission assignments, he said, noting that the astronaut corps includes people ranging in age from their late 20s to mid-20s. 60s. “As long as you’re healthy, we’ll load you onto a rocket and shoot you off the planet.”