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 space. Moon.
At an Aug. 5 briefing at the Johnson Space Center about the upcoming uncrewed Artemis 1 mission, Reid Weisman, chief of the astronaut office, said he hoped the four-person crew that will fly Artemis 2 would be selected soon.
“The question everyone will be asking is when will we assign a crew to Artemis 2? We hope it will be later this year,” she said. That mission is expected to launch no earlier than 2024.
Artemis 2 will be Orion’s first manned flight, circling the moon in a flight that will last about 10 days. Crew of four will include a Canadian astronaut as part of a December 2020 agreement between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency on Canada’s contribution of the Canadarm3 robotic arm to the lunar portal.
NASA has not stated whether other international partners, such as Europe or Japan, will carry 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 subsequent flights. of Artemis.
“The way I see it, any of our 42 active astronauts is eligible for an Artemis mission,” he said, a point he emphasized several times during the briefing. “We want to assemble the right team for this mission.”
That’s a change from the end of 2020, when NASA unveiled an “Artemis Team” of 18 astronauts that agency leadership at the time, along with then-Vice President Mike Pence, said it would form a group from which NASA would select crews for at least the initial Artemis missions.
“My fellow citizens, I present to 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 form 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 painting of our Artemis astronauts,” Bridenstine said. “I want to be clear: there will be more.”
However, Wiseman 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 calling 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” over previous standards that set lower limits for women.
Wiseman said those earlier “draconian” standards had been replaced by a single cap. “We have equalized all radiation limits. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, if you’re a woman, it’s exactly the same.”
“Our ultimate goal is for the United States of America to be half male, half female. Well, space should be at least that,” she said. “If we can’t make these spacecraft equitable, and we can’t carry any kind of people on them, then we need to look at our systems and reevaluate.”
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’ll load you onto a rocket and we’ll get you off the planet.”