NASA has shared a shortlist of astronauts eligible for the first Artemis missions to the Moon, and it won’t surprise you to hear that it’s an eclectic mix. The 18 candidates not only cover a range of backgrounds, but include everyone from relative newcomers to some of its most seasoned veterans.
Eight of the astronauts are from the 2017 class, including US Navy Lieutenant Commander Kayla Barron, Navy SEAL and medical doctor Jonny Kim and Curiosity science team member Jessica Watkins. There are also several 2013 veterans, though, including record-setter Christina Koch and Crew Dragon pilot Victor Glover. A few of the candidates are far more experienced, though — Stephanie Wilson landed her astronaut role in 1996, while Joseph Acaba secured his place in 2004.
There’s no indication of who’s most likely to fly, and many of these astronauts may end up performing support roles. They’ll collaborate with the companies developing Moon landers, define training, set hardware requirements and consult on technical work. They’ll serve as the public face of the Artemis program, too.
The move takes NASA one step closer to putting people on the Moon in 2024. It’s coming at an unusual time, though. With a new US administration just weeks away, it’s unclear how the Artemis program will continue (if at all). Priorities could easily change, and many of these astronauts might have to sit tight for a while if there are any delays.