The newly selected Artemis 2 astronauts have been in the spotlight over the past week — and that now includes a call with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.
On Friday (April 7), NASA's Twitter account posted a video showing Harris on a congratulatory call with the Artemis 2 quartet, whose identities were announced on April 3.
"I am so excited about each of you, and you as a team together," Harris said to the astronauts, adding that the group is "inspiring people around the world."
Related: NASA's Artemis program: Everything you need to know
She invited the astronauts to speak about Artemis 2's place in the broader picture of NASA's exploration plans. "We are very clearly set on humans on Mars," replied NASA astronaut and Artemis 2 commander Reid Wiseman, who explained the importance of the crew's round-the-moon mission, and its place in the larger Artemis program.
Last November, Artemis 1 launched an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a 25-day mission to lunar orbit and back. Artemis 2 will send Wiseman and his three crewmates — NASA's Christina Hammock Koch and Victor Glover and Canada's Jeremy Hansen — around the moon. NASA is targeting November 2024 for the liftoff of the mission, which, like Artemis 1, will employ a Space Launch System rocket.
Artemis 2 will mark the first time humans have traveled to the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972, and they will travel farther from Earth than anyone in history. Artemis 2 won't orbit the moon; rather, Orion will fly a free-return trajectory from Earth in a figure-eight around the moon before splashing back down in the Pacific Ocean 10 days after liftoff.
Artemis 2's main objective will be to prove Orion's maneuverability and ability to support astronauts. If all goes well, Artemis 3 will land astronauts near the moon's south pole in 2025 or thereabouts.
On the video call with Harris, Wiseman voiced confidence in his crew's ability to complete their mission. "The four of us are going to go fly this Orion spacecraft. We're going to test all the manual capabilities. We are going to make sure that this vehicle is ready to hand off to our colleagues for Artemis 3 and beyond, so they can go focus on landing, building up Gateway, and eventually on to Mars."
(Gateway is the small space station that NASA plans to build in lunar orbit as part of the Artemis program.)
Before wrapping up their talk, Harris said to the group, "There is something about who you each are in terms of your love of life, love of country, love of our world, that is so empowering."
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