NASA unveiled on Monday the names of the four astronauts who will travel around the Moon at the end of 2024, a prologue to the return of humans to lunar soil after a half-century absence. Americans Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover and Christina Hammock Koch, as well as Canadian Jeremy Hansen will form the crew of Artemis 2, NASA announced from its center in Houston, Texas.

They will be the first human beings to travel to the Moon (without landing there) since the last Apollo mission in 1972. Mission Commander Reid Wiseman and his two compatriots have already flown in space, while that this will be a first for Jeremy Hansen. The four were congratulated in a Sunday call by President Joe Biden, the White House said.

With the presence in the team of African-American Victor Glover and Christina Hammock Koch, NASA is getting ahead of its promise to send, for the next mission which must land on lunar soil, the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon, when the Apollo program took 12 men there, all white. “Am I enthusiastic? Absolutely, but I’ll put the question back to you,” Christina Hammock Koch asked during a press conference. “Because the thing that excites me the most is carrying your excitement, your aspirations, your dreams with us on this Artemis 2 mission, your mission. »

The chosen astronauts are aware of the importance of Artemis 2: “It is the next leg of the journey that will lead humanity to Mars”, explained Victor Glover. “This crew will never forget it. The Artemis program intends to eventually sign the return of humans to the Moon with the establishment of a lasting lunar presence, by the construction of a base on the surface of the Moon and a space station in orbit around it. She. Learning to live on the Moon should make it possible to test all the technologies necessary for an even more complex journey: sending a crew to Mars. The launch of Artemis 2 is currently scheduled for November 2024. The mission should last about ten days.

The four astronauts will travel with NASA’s SLS rocket, the most powerful in the world today. They will take place at the top of this rocket, in the Orion capsule, which will detach once in space and take them around the Moon. When returning, they will land in the ocean. The SLS rocket has so far only flown once, during the Artemis 1 mission. It then propelled the empty Orion capsule to the Moon, during a test mission of a little more than 25 days. The capsule had successfully returned to Earth in December.

All “active” astronauts (there are currently 41) were officially eligible to be part of Artemis 2. But the selection process was kept top secret. Reid Wiseman, eventually chosen as commander, was until recently chief of the astronaut office — a front-line position deciding the composition of the team. Before leaving his post, he said that he was looking above all for technical expertise and team spirit among the lucky ones. Unchosen astronauts can take comfort in hoping to be selected for Artemis 3, which will be the first mission to land on the Moon. This mission is officially scheduled for the end of 2025, even if the timetable is very uncertain at this stage. A mission for Mars could be sent by 2040.