NASA will soon name the astronauts for its first crewed lunar mission since 1972.
Artemis 2 is the next flight after the agency’s uncrewed Artemis 1 mission, which launched Nov. 16 on the Space Launch System rocket and crashed into the Pacific Ocean Dec. 11. No astronauts have flown on this Orion spacecraft, although it has had a trio of similar mannequins and passengers.
The astronaut selection process is secretive, so much so that even selected astronauts often don’t know how they were prioritized for particular missions, even decades later. Crews are also announced on a strict schedule determined by participating space agencies, and information leaks are rare.
Recently, CNN spoke with “nearly a dozen current and former NASA officials and astronauts,” some of whom were kept anonymous. Based on these interviews, the outlet shared some predictions (opens in a new tab) as to who will be selected. NASA’s Reid Wiseman and Canada’s Jeremy Hansen are the most common predictions among those polled, with several other astronauts on the four-person crew. NASA has not confirmed any of CNN’s predictions, nor has the agency released an official comment regarding CNN’s report.
Related: NASA’s Artemis program: Everything you need to know
Artemis 2 will be a joint mission between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to take astronauts around the moon and back in around 2024. (The Canadians secured their place by contributing robotic technology, the Canadarm3, to a planned lunar station called Gateway.)
The mission will mark the first time astronauts have approached the moon since December 1972, when NASA’s Apollo 17 sent Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt to the lunar surface (Ronald Evans piloted the command module from orbit). The Artemis missions that will land will begin with Artemis 3 no earlier than 2025.
CNN predicted that Wiseman, 47, will be part of the Artemis 2 crew based on his resume, which includes roles as a naval aviator, test pilot and chief of the astronaut office. He stepped down from that leadership position in November, and CNN suggests the move was because “the leader is not eligible to fly in space.” Wiseman joined NASA in 2009 and is a veteran of the International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 41 mission from May to November 2014. He also commanded the NEEMO (NASA Extreme Mission Operations) 21 underwater mission in Florida in 2016.
Hansen, also 47, is a Canadian Armed Forces fighter pilot whose resume includes service with NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command). He joined the CSA in 2009 and has yet to fly in space; Canada contributes approximately 2.5% to the ISS consortium, which equates to one flight approximately every 5 or 6 years. Notably, Hansen was the first Canadian to manage the training schedule for a new class of astronauts, which he did between 2017 and 2020.
Who exactly will occupy the four seats of Artemis 2 remains a big question, however. NASA determined that Artemis missions would be open to all active astronauts in 2022. The announcement canceled a 2020 initiative selecting 18 astronauts for these missions, which NASA then called “Team Artemis.”
NASA has repeatedly stated that it will include women and people of color on its Artemis missions (all of the people who flew on Apollo were white men). CNN has determined that 41 NASA astronauts are eligible in total, with one-third being women and 12 people of color.
CNN has guessed a few veteran astronauts who could serve on Artemis 2 such as Victor Glover (a black astronaut who flew to the ISS in 2021), Christina Koch (a woman who served nearly a year on the ISS from of 2019) or Anne McClain (an astronaut who reached the ISS in 2018; after her flight, her ex-wife’s legal charges made her the first active astronaut publicly identified with the LGBTQ+ community), but nothing all of this is unconfirmed.
While we can speculate who else might be flying Artemis 2, the reality is that NASA isn’t ready to offer that information just yet. Asked by CNN, administrator Bill Nelson said the goal of announcing the four crew members to the public would be “later this spring.”
Elizabeth Howell is co-author of “Why am I taller (opens in a new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book on space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) or Facebook (opens in a new tab).