Artemis II
The Artemis II crew: (L-R) Jeremy Hansen, Victor Glover, Reid Wiseman and Christina Koch AFP / Mark Felix

NASA has revealed the names of the four people who will venture around the moon on Artemis II, a mission meant to return humans to the moon more than 50 years after the end of the Apollo missions.

Astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Jeremy Hansen, and Christina Koch will be taking a trip around the moon and will then come back home. The mission will be commanded by Reid Wisemen and is set to be launched in 2024 from the United States.

If all goes well, the mission will be followed by the program's first lunar landing of astronauts, one of them a woman, with Artemis III.

Under Artemis III, the agency plans to land on the moon's south pole to exploit its water ice, which was discovered in 2009. NASA aims to establish a base there as a stepping stone to future human exploration of Mars.

Artemis III is similar to the Apollo 11 mission of 1969. However, this time the astronauts will spend more time on the moon.

NASA would not have been preparing for Artemis II if Artemis I had been a failure. Under Artemis I, a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket blasted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Centre last year.

It was essentially a dummy run, an uncrewed launch, to ensure that the Space Launch System will be able to launch humans towards the lunar orbit on the Orion capsule and then safely bring them back.

Artemis II will bring humans a step closer to landing on the moon since the Apollo missions. The last time humans stepped onto the moon was in 1972. The crew, comprising the first person of colour, will lift off from NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, USA. The 10-day mission will take the astronauts around the far side of the moon.

The objective of the Artemis II flight is to demonstrate that all of Orion's life-support apparatus and other systems will operate as designed with astronauts aboard in deep space.

"The crew will endure the high-speed, high-temperature re-entry through Earth's atmosphere before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego, where they will be met by a recovery team of NASA and Department of Defense personnel who will bring them back to shore," reads the description available on NASA's website.

Who are these four astronauts? The four astronauts were selected from a group of 18 astronauts who are part of the Artemis Corps.

Reid Wiseman served as Flight Engineer aboard the International Space Station during Expedition 40. The expeditions to the ISS refer to the missions taken up by its crew for research and testing aboard the space station.

During the mission, Wiseman and his crewmates conducted valuable scientific research in areas such as human physiology, medicine, physical science, Earth science, and astrophysics.

Victor Glover has been assigned as the pilot of NASA's Artemis II mission. He has also been to the International Space Station on Expedition 64. He most recently served as pilot and second-in-command on the Crew-1 SpaceX Crew Dragon, named Resilience, which landed on May 2, 2021. He will become the first black astronaut to journey into lunar orbit after the completion of Artemis II.

While astronaut Christina Hammock Koch will become the first woman to go around the moon. She will serve as a mission specialist. This is a historical development because only white men have been to lunar orbit and on the surface so far. Koch joined NASA in 2013 and served as a flight engineer on the International Space Station (ISS) for Expeditions 59, 60, and 61.

Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen will be flying to the moon as a mission specialist for Artemis II. He is set to become the first non-American to achieve such a feat. He has also been a crew member of the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations.