NASA reveals astronauts for Artemis mission - who could be the first woman on the moon?

Thursday, 10th December 2020, 5:16 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th December 2020, 5:59 pm

Hopes of a woman walking on the moon took a giant leap towards becoming a reality after NASA announced the 18 astronauts who will form its crews under the Artemis programme.

The nine women and nine men to be selected include individuals who have been to space before, others who are yet to take flight and graduates of its most recent astronaut class.

They form the group who will start training for specific tasks, with crew assignments to be made closer to the flight, which will see the next man and first woman to walk on the lunar surface.

Who will be the first woman to walk on the moon?

Nine women are in contention to become the first woman to walk on the moon.

Among those are Stephanie Wilson, who already has three flights into space under her belt, Kate Rubins, who has been to the International Space Station (ISS) twice before, and Christina Koch, who holds the record for the longest continuous time in space for a woman.

Jessica Meir and Anne McClain both have one flight each to their name and are joined in the group by Kayla Barron, Nicole A Mann, Jasmin Moghbeli and Jessica Watkins, who are all yet to take flight into space.

Meir, who participated in the first all-women spacewalks with Christina Koch on 18 October 2019, said there wasn’t any individual competition.

“To us, it isn't really a personal achievement for us, it is paying homage and tribute to the generations of women and other minorities that really were the boundary-pushers that truly broke those glass ceilings to let us be here today,” she said.

“The great thing for us now is it just seems normal: We're all going to go together to the moon.”

Who else makes up the crew?

The other nine astronauts to complete the Artemis crew are Joseph Acaba (three flights), Victor Glover (one flight), Kjell Lindgren (one flight), Scott Tingle (one flight), Raja Chari, Matthew Dominick, Warren Hoburg, Jonny Kim and Frank Rubio.

When will the next moon landing take place?

In March 2019, US vice president Mike Pence, who also chairs the National Space Council, set a deadline of returning to the moon by 2024.

The date brought forward initial plans to land on the lunar surface by four years, with Mr Pence saying "the United States must remain first in space in this century as in the last".

Not since Apollo 17's mission in 1972 has a person set foot on the moon, three years after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the lunar surface.

What is NASA's Artemis programme?

The Artemis programme's aim is to land humans at the lunar south pole by 2024 and develop an ongoing presence on the moon.

The name of the programme, Artemis, is derived from the Greek goddess of the moon.

Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo - the name of NASA's first moon landing programme.

The project will also deliver a station around the moon, called the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, similar to the International Space Station which orbits Earth.

It will provide a platform for scientific experiments and trips to the lunar surface and will see astronauts remain for between 30-90 day periods.

The Gateway will be carried into orbit by the agency's newly developed rocket called the Space Launch System.

How much will the Artemis programme cost?

With so much of the work ongoing, the overall cost of the programme remains unknown.

Yet, according to NASA, the Apollo programme cost $23.6 billion in 1973, equal to $136bn today, meaning each Apollo moon landing cost in the region of $22.6bn in 2019 dollars.

Who was the first woman in space?

Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to go into space in 1963 - two years after Yuri Gagarin's first flight into space.

She launched on 16 June 1963 and spent almost three days in her space capsule Vostok 6, orbiting Earth 48 times.

NASA astronaut Sally K. Ride was the first American woman in space on board the Space Shuttle Challenger on 18 June 1983.

Who was the first man on the moon?

Neil Armstrong became the first human to step foot on the moon on 20 July 1969.

He was part of a three-man mission, Apollo 11, with Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin and Michael Collins.

Aldrin followed Armstrong out of the lunar module, named Eagle, while Collins stayed in orbit around the moon. They returned to Earth safely on 24 July, eight days after launch.