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‘Heroes of the future’: NASA chooses 18 astronauts for lunar mission training

NASA on Wednesday presented the group of astronauts it has chosen for the upcoming missions to the moon.

The program, called Artemis, aims to send people back to the moon for the first time since NASA’s Apollo program ended in 1972.

“This is the first cadre of our Artemis astronauts,” said Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, at a National Space Council meeting at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “I want to be clear, there will be more.”

The astronauts are Joseph M. Acaba, Kayla J. Barron, Raja Chari, Matthew S. Dominick, Victor J. Glover, Warren Hoburg, Jonathan Kim, Christina H. Koch, Kjell N. Lindgren, Nicole A. Mann, Anne C. McClain, Jessica U. Meir, Jasmin Moghbeli, Kathleen Rubins, Francisco C. Rubio, Scott D. Tingle, Jessica A. Watkins, and Stephanie D. Wilson.

Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the space council, read the names. “I give you the heroes of the future, who will bring us back to the moon and beyond,” said Mr. Pence.

However, astronauts will not be making lunar travel for a while.

NASA hopes to launch its first Artemis mission next year, but it will be an unmanned flight designed to test a giant rocket called the Space Launch System and the Orion capsule where astronauts will ride.

The first flight with astronauts is scheduled for 2023. This flight must pass in front of the moon but not land – a 21st century equivalent of the Apollo 8 flight of 1968. The next mission, Artemis 3, is one of landing on the moon , probably somewhere near the South Pole, which is interesting because water frozen in shady craters was found there.

Artemis 3 is the mission Mr. Bridenstine has repeatedly touted as the one that will take “the next man and the first woman” to the moon.

NASA has yet to reveal which astronauts will be assigned to specific missions. But some members of the group have achieved some accolades in recent years. Ms Koch and Ms Meir took part in the first all-female spacewalk last year, and Mr Glover became the first black astronaut to join the International Space Station crew when he arrived there this month. latest. Ms Koch also set the record for the longest consecutive stay in space – 328 days – by a woman.

The Trump administration has set a goal of reaching the moon’s surface by the end of 2024. However, NASA is unlikely to meet that deadline – in addition to technical hurdles, there is the question Cost.

Congress has provided less money than the space agency says it needs for the lunar landers to be developed so quickly. For the current fiscal year, NASA has requested $ 3.3 billion. Congress has yet to pass a final budget, but the Senate was only willing to provide about $ 1 billion, and the House of Representatives offered even less, only about $ 600 million.

“We are grateful for this,” said Bridenstine, who said Democrats and Republicans support the moon program. “But eventually, if we don’t get the $ 3.3 billion, it gets harder and harder.”

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has so far said little about his plans for NASA, but most expect a slower pace for Artemis.

At the space council meeting, Trump administration officials gave a recap of its space policy over the past four years: streamlining regulations governing the launch of satellites, creating the Space Force which is a new branch of the military and increased attention paid to space debris that threatens satellites orbiting Earth.