Here's everything you should know before NASA's Artemis II astronaut crew reveal
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NASA on Monday, April 3, will reveal the Artemis II crew of four astronauts who will fly a mission to lunar orbit and back to Earth no earlier than late 2024.
It's not the same as the two astronauts who will land on the surface for Artemis III sometime before 2030, but the announcement is still significant – no humans have been that far from Earth since Apollo 17 in 1972. Tune in to floridatoday.com/space at 11 a.m. EDT Monday for live video and updates of the NASA-hosted event from Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
What is the Artemis II crew announcement?
The announcement of which astronauts will be flying on Artemis II, the final test flight of NASA's moon-focused program, comes less than a month after agency officials deemed last year's Artemis I mission a success. That uncrewed mission lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in November.
Representing international partnership, a touchstone of the Artemis program, three astronauts selected from NASA will be joined by one from the Canadian Space Agency.
Which astronauts are eligible for Artemis II?
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In 2020, NASA named its "Artemis Team" of astronauts. At the time, it was assumed the names of the first crewed Artemis mission would be picked from that team of 18 active astronauts.
In total, NASA's astronaut corps is made up of 41 "active" astronauts that are currently eligible for flight assignments and 10 astronaut candidates that will become eligible after completing a two-year training cycle.
But since the Artemis Team announcement, astronaut Reid Wiseman, who served as chief of NASA's astronaut office for two years and was responsible for flight assignments, told reporters in August 2022 that any active or candidate astronaut could be eligible for Artemis missions.
In November, Wiseman stepped down from chief astronaut duties to return to active status, making him eligible for flight assignments. As reported by CNN, the move might indicate that Wiseman will be named as one of the four Artemis II astronauts on Monday. As for which Canadian will be selected, that assignment will come from the country's pool of four active astronauts that work alongside NASA in Houston.
What is Artemis?
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NASA's Artemis program is a serious attempt at establishing a long-term foothold on the moon and, someday, Mars. The name Artemis, twin sister of Apollo, was chosen as the representation of NASA's effort to land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface, building on the Apollo program over 50 years ago.
Each Artemis mission will be increasingly complex:
Artemis I was a 25-day uncrewed demonstration flight of the world's most powerful operational rocket, the 322-foot Space Launch System, Orion capsule, and NASA's capability to return humans to lunar orbit.
Artemis II will be a lunar flyby test flight and the program's first mission with a crew.
Artemis III will attempt to land two people on the lunar surface before 2030.
Beyond that, NASA intends to launch crewed missions about once per year to establish a continuous presence at the moon with a small space station called Gateway. That will serve as an eventual stepping stone to Mars.
What is the Artemis II mission?
If the late 2024 timeline holds, the four Artemis II astronauts announced on Monday will be the first to travel around the moon and back aboard NASA's Orion capsule. An SLS rocket will kick off their ride.
The mission will follow a similar path to last year's uncrewed Artemis I demonstration but will be shorter in duration. Expected to last about 10 days, Artemis II will stress Orion's life support systems for deep-space missions and push the crew 6,400 miles beyond the far side of the moon. After coasting back to Earth for about four days, Orion will bring the crew home for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
When was the last time humans traveled to the moon and back?
The last time NASA, or any space agency, sent humans to the moon was more than 50 years ago.
Apollo 17 launched NASA astronauts Gene Cernan, Jack Schmitt, and Ronald Evans on Dec. 7, 1972. It was the only Apollo mission launched at night.
The Apollo 17 spacecraft re-entered Earth's atmosphere and splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 19, marking the last time humans traveled back from the moon – at least until Artemis II attempts to do the same.
Contact Jamie Groh at JGroh@floridatoday.com and follow her on Twitter at @AlteredJamie.
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: What to know before NASA's reveal of the Artemis II astronaut crew