NASA will soon name the astronauts on its first crewed moon mission since 1972.
Artemis 2 is the next flight after the agency's uncrewed Artemis 1 mission, which launched Nov. 16 on the Space Launch System rocket and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11. No astronauts flew on board that Orion spacecraft, although it did have a trio of mannequins and similar passengers.
The selection process for astronauts is secretive, so much so that even the astronauts selected often do not know how they were prioritized for particular missions, even decades later. The crews are also announced on a strict schedule determined by participating space agencies, and information leaks are uncommon.
Recently, CNN spoke with "nearly a dozen current and former NASA officials and astronauts," some of whom the news outlet kept anonymous. Based on these interviews, the news outlet has shared a few predictions as to who will be selected. NASA's Reid Wiseman and Canada's Jeremy Hansen are the most common predictions among the interviewees, with several other astronauts rumored to be among the four-person crew. NASA did not confirm any of the predictions by CNN, nor did the agency issue an official comment in regards to CNN's report.
Artemis 2 will be a joint mission between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to bring astronauts around the moon and back in 2024 or so. (The Canadians got their seat by contributing robotic technology, the Canadarm3, to a planned lunar station called Gateway.)
The mission will mark the first time astronauts approach the moon since December 1972, when NASA's Apollo 17 sent Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt to the lunar surface (Ronald Evans piloted the command module from orbit). Artemis missions that touch down will start with Artemis 3 no earlier than 2025.
CNN predicted that Wiseman, 47, will be on the Artemis 2 crew based on his resume, which includes serving as a naval aviator, test pilot and chief of the astronaut office. He stepped down from that management position in November, and CNN suggests the move was because "the chief isn't eligible to fly in space." Wiseman joined NASA in 2009 and is a veteran of International Space Station (ISS) mission Expedition 41 from May to November 2014. He also commanded the underwater NEEMO (NASA Extreme Mission Operations) 21 mission in Florida in 2016.
Hansen, also 47, is a fighter pilot with the Canadian Armed Forces whose resume includes serving with NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command). He joined the CSA in 2009 and has not yet flown to space; Canada contributes a roughly 2.5% share to the ISS consortium, which works out to a flight roughly every 5 or 6 years. Notably, Hansen served as the first Canadian ever to manage the training schedule of a new astronaut class, which he did between 2017 and 2020.
Who exactly will occupy the four seats of Artemis 2 remains a big question, however. NASA determined Artemis missions would be open to all active astronauts in 2022. The announcement rolled back a 2020 initiative selecting 18 astronauts for these missions, which NASA then called "the Artemis Team."
NASA has repeatedly said it will include women and people of color on its Artemis missions (all of the people who flew on Apollo were white men). CNN determined that 41 NASA astronauts are eligible all told, with a third of those being women and 12 being people of color.
CNN guessed at a few veteran astronauts who may serve on Artemis 2 such as Victor Glover (a Black astronaut who flew to the ISS in 2021), Christina Koch (a woman who served nearly a year on the ISS beginning in 2019) or Anne McClain (an astronaut who reached the ISS in 2018; after her flight, legal accusations from her estranged wife made her the first active astronaut publicly identified with the LGBTQ+ community), but none of these are confirmed.
As much as we can speculate who else could fly on Artemis 2, the reality is NASA isn't prepared to offer that information yet. When asked by CNN, administrator Bill Nelson said the target for announcing all four crew members to the public will be "later this spring."
Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.