CAPE CAÑAVERAL, FLORIDA, USA – The US space agency NASA has named the 18 astronauts, half of them women, who will train in the Artemis program to travel to the Moon. The first woman and the next man on the Moon will be selected from this elite group.
Vice President Mike Pence introduced the astronauts Wednesday at the conclusion of his final meeting with the director of the National Space Council. The announcement was made at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, underneath one of the three Saturn V rockets from the Apollo program from the 1960s and 1970s.
Pence noted that the last of the 12 men to walk on the moon, the late Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan, wanted above all to have the word “last” removed from his title. Cernan’s final moonprints were on December 14, 1972.
“He spent the rest of his natural life advocating for America to return to the Moon, and we are going to honor the memory of Genen Cernan,” Pence told a small group of people, sitting several feet apart from each other.
Five of the astronauts, the only ones present, walked on stage, waving and wearing masks. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine emphasized that there would be more astronauts joining the group. NASA has 47 active astronauts.
The special agency intends to make a moon landing in 2024. Half of NASA astronauts have experience of space flight. Two are currently on the international space station: Kate Rubins and Victor Glover.
The two astronauts who took the first female walk in space last year are among the finalists. They are: Christina Koch and Jessica Meir. It is a relatively young group, with the majority in their 30s or 40s. The oldest is 55, the youngest is 32. Only two, Joe Fincas and Stephanie Wilson, flew in the old space shuttles.
“The story is great, but we are here to look to the future,” Fin told reporters after the announcement. The other seasoned members of the list include Kjell Lindgren, Anne McClain and Scott Tingle, all former residents of the space station.
“We are dreamers, but even more so, we are doers,” McClain said. He wants children of all backgrounds to take note of the diverse lunar team: “The doors are open, come after us.”