NASA has chosen 18 astronauts who will train for missions on and around the Moon as part of the agency’s Artemis program. The Artemis Team was introduced by Vice President Mike Pence during the eighth National Space Council meeting at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday. The program aims to land the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024 with an eye toward establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon by the end of the decade.
“Walking on the lunar surface would be a dream come true for any one of us, and any part we can play in making that happen is an honor,” said Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester. “I am proud of this particular group of men and women and know that any of them would do an outstanding job representing NASA and the United States on a future Artemis mission.”
The program’s first crewed mission, Artemis II, is currently slated for 2022. Specific mission assignments have not been announced. Astronauts selected for the Artemis Team are Joe Acaba, Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, Matthew Dominick, Victor Glover, Woody Hoburg, Jonny Kim, Christina Koch, Kjell Lindgren, Nicole Mann, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir, Jasmin Moghbeli, Kate Rubins, Frank Rubio, Scott Tingle, Jessica Watkins and Stephanie Wilson. According to NASA, additional members will be added to the team as needed.
Hope these folks don’t have their hopes set too high that all of them will make it onto a flight. With a per launch cost of roughly twice that of STS their’s currently only enough funding for four flights. With this in mind and the progress that SpaceX is making on both Crew Dragon and Starship it makes you wonder how much longer Congress is going to continue pouring billions into this program. Especially when you consider even with the current amount of funding NASA can only afford ONE SLS launch per year.
Unfortunately, Democrat administrations have historically not been kind to space projects. And, with the significant increase in the national debt as a result of the virus pandemic, additional funding is not likely to be forthcoming for NASA. The American public just does not see any compelling reasons to spend money on manned space projects, especially when they can get cool pictures and data from robotic rovers and orbiting satellites for a fraction of the cost.
Well, the Democratic Kennedy and Johnson administrations were pretty kind to space projects, or we wouldn’t have made it to the moon in the first place. And we might disagree about the cause of the increase in the national debt over the current administration’s tenure. But I think you’re absolutely right about the public’s opinion of money spent on manned space projects vs unmanned. Maybe we need to wait for a time when spacecraft build costs come down due to improved manufacturing (more robots) to be able to send humans into space regularly. I’ve always been a proponent of the space program, and we have had some benefits from it, but many of us aren’t as young as we used to be and it gets harder to see the benefits going forward. Maybe we need to save the money to spend on recovery from the next pandemic (which could happen any time, unfortunately).
So the Obama administration cancelled Constellation and suddenly all Democratic administrations are bad for space exploration? Let’s face it, Constellation was never going to get to flight with the absolute trickle of funding that Congress was providing. That was what the Obama administration said, not that they didn’t think it was worth it, or that we shouldn’t be exploring space. So they told NASA to take what had be already accomplished with Constellation and rework it into a launch system that was viable under the existing funding regime.
Artemis program, its objectives/goals, and timeline for launch is not getting much press if any, today. As long as Congress continues to fund it, the path of accomplishments leading up to the next moon launch will likely go virtually unnoticed. Average American interests does not include being wowed by another space launch.
There is no comparison to the American appetite and enthusiasm for the Apollo Program compared to Artemis. There was a lot of debate about the value of going to the moon considering the spending on Vietnam and the various arguments over the developments and costs of military aircraft. But even the most outspoken folks against space exploration swelled with national pride and a sense of accomplishment when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon.
Today, I doubt the American public even knows Artemis even exists. If anything, this moon shot anonymity will probably allow for more government spending because few will challenge it, enabling the lobbyist’s to do what they do best, that being massaging the palms of Congress.