Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon in 1969, but who will be the first woman?
NASA offered a big clue this week as it officially unveiled the team of astronauts eligible for the upcoming moon-landing mission planned as part of the Artemis program.
The 18 astronauts — nine women and nine men (some pictured below) — were introduced by Vice President Mike Pence at this week’s National Space Council gathering at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“I give you the heroes who will carry us to the moon and beyond — the Artemis Generation,” Pence said, adding, “It is amazing to think that the next man and first woman on the moon are among the names that we just read. The Artemis Team astronauts are the future of American space exploration — and that future is bright.”
NASA’s Artemis astronauts hail from a wide range of backgrounds, expertise, and experience. Some have traveled to space before, while others are yet to experience their first adventure away from Earth.
Kate Rubins, for example, was selected as an astronaut in 2009 and is currently aboard the International Space Station. Rubins was the first person to sequence DNA in space and has performed two spacewalks to date.
Kayla Barron, on the other hand, is yet to embark on a space mission. Selected by NASA in 2017, Barron earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering and besides her astronaut credentials is also a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy.
A list showing the names of all 18 Artemis astronauts is available on NASA’s website.
NASA had been hoping to put the first woman and next man on the lunar surface in 2024, but a recent report from the space agency indicated that funding issues, rising costs, and schedule delays may cause the date to slip.
Before returning humans to the moon, NASA must first perform a successful uncrewed test flight to our nearest neighbor using its SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft, followed by a crewed flyby of the moon. It also has to build its moon-orbiting Lunar Gateway space station for delivering astronauts and equipment to the lunar surface, while a design for the all-important moon lander also has to be selected and then built.
“There is so much exciting work ahead of us as we return to the moon, and it will take the entire astronaut corps to make that happen,” Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester said this week. “Walking on the lunar surface would be a dream come true for any one of us, and any part we can play in making that happen is an honor. I am proud of this particular group of men and women and know that any of them would do an outstanding job representing NASA and the United States on a future Artemis mission.”
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