NASA has shortlisted 18 astronauts that might make it to the moon on its Artemis mission. The list is a surprising mix of astronauts from different backgrounds. The 18-candidate list is made up not only of seasoned veterans but also of newcomers, Engadget reports.
The list has eight astronauts from its 2017 class, including US Navy Lieutenant Commander Kayla Barron, medical doctor and Navy SEAL Jonny Kim, and curiosity science team members Jessica Watkins. Christina Koch, Crew Dragon pilot Victor Glover were the 2013 veterans that also made the list. The list also had Stephanie Wilson, a very experienced astronaut, who became one as far back as 1996. Joseph Acaba was the other veteran on the list, having joined NASA as an astronaut in 2004.
Other team members include Raja Chari, Matthew Dominick, Warren Hoburg, Kjell Lindgren, Nicole Mann, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir, Jasmin Moghbeli, Kate Rubins, Frank Rubio, and Scott Tingle. They are mostly in their 30s or 40s. The youngest among them is 32, while the oldest is 55.
More than half of the shortlisted team has spaceflight experience. Victor Glover and Kate Rubins are currently at the International Space Station. Also included in the shortlist are Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, both of whom performed the world’s first all-female spacewalk in 2019.
There’s no assurance on who may likely make the final list. However, many astronauts may end up playing support roles if they don’t make the final team. These astronauts would become the face of the mission, collaborating with developing the spacecraft, partake in training, helping to install hardware equipment, and also do some consulting work.
Vice President Mike Pence while reeling out the news of the shortlisted astronauts called them the future of American space exploration. The latest development is a major step forward in the plan of NASA to land astronauts on the moon come 2024. However, a new administration is underway a few weeks ahead, and it is yet to be known how this transition would affect the schedule of events for Artemis.
However, an audit report by the office of the inspector general of the space agency warned NASA might not be able to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024. NASA plans for the first mission in 2024 and the next in 2026, which may carry up to four astronauts. The ability for these missions to be achieved will depend on how much the Biden administration invests in NASA and its space exploration programs.