NASA announced on Wednesday the team of 18 astronauts — nine men and nine women — who have been selected to participate in the upcoming Artemis Moon landing missions.
The team includes astronauts of diverse backgrounds and experience levels, and counts among its ranks the first woman and the next man to walk on the Moon. Among those selected are Kate Rubins and Victor Glover — two astronauts already currently aboard the International Space Station — as well as Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, who in 2019 and 2020 took part in the first all-female spacewalks.
Beginning next year, the Artemis team will help NASA carry out critical missions to develop human landing systems, and will eventually help with the development of training and with engaging the public on NASA’s exploration plans.
As Gizmodo’s Tom McKay has extensively reported, NASA is chomping at the bit to jump-start Moon capitalism, recently selecting the first four private companies it will contract with in order to commence the first off-world sales of space resources. While we’re still a long ways off from Moon colonies, the Artemis team will be integral in furthering that push into space; along with its plans to land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024, the agency also has the explicitly stated goal of establishing a sustainable human lunar presence there by the end of the decade.
That 2024 date is particularly ambitious, however, given the massive budget shortfall NASA is currently facing for lander development.
“We are in the midst of negotiating to get that lander funded,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine recently told the Space Council on the Artemis program’s progress, according to CBS News. “This has to be generational in nature, which means strong bipartisan support is necessary.
“But ultimately, if we don’t get the (requested) $US3.3 ($4) billion, it gets more and more difficult,” Bridenstine continued. “If there’s anything you can do to help with the $US3.3 ($4) billion, we are certainly asking for that.”
While there’s no word yet on how amenable a Biden administration will be to funding future Moon missions, the idea of space dominance has long maintained broad bipartisan support. One way or another, we’ll eventually make it back to that big, barren rock in the sky, and when we do, the Artemis team will be ready to pilot us there.