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Sun, Aug 14, 2022

NASA Announces Astronaut Corps Ready For Artemis

Moon Project to Draw Upon Whole Corps of all Flight-Qualified Astronauts

NASA has announced that the entire body of qualified astronauts in current service with the agency stand as possible selections for the upcoming Artemis program. 

The change was a bit of a surprise and contravenes the impression given to the space community 2 years earlier when NASA announced the group of candidates it intended to draw upon for Artemis staffing. In 2020, that core team of 18 astronauts were shown as a dedicated group of Artemis recruits, but it seems likely that the administration simply doesn't have the astronauts to spare. Instead, Reid Weisman, chief over the astronaut program, said that the cadre of eligible staff consists of all flight-ready personnel. 

“The way I look at it," he said, "any one of our 42 active astronauts is eligible for an Artemis mission. We want to assemble the right team for this mission.” The first of the Artemis program, Artemis 1,  will be uncrewed throughout its 10-day journey around the moon. Its follow-on, Artemis 2, will consist of a 4-person team. Of those 4, 3 will be drawn from NASA and one from the Canadian astronaut agency, a result of some horse trading done to obtain the Canadarm3 system for the lunar Gateway. 

The total pool of 42 astronauts on NASA's books will be joined by another 10 as they complete their training. Even then, recent reports within the administration have said that there are still too few astronauts, without enough personnel to cover the current slate of missions in addition to upcoming programs. That issue may play into the apparent lack of an age requirement, given Weisman's statements that "as long as you are healthy, we're going to load you on a rocket and shoot you off the planet." The ultimate goal remains a varied corps of astronauts out on missions, with well-mixed demographics. 

“Our end goal is, the United States of America is half men, half women. Well, space should be at least that,” he said. “If we cannot make these spacecraft equitable, and we can’t fly any type of person on them, then we need to look at our systems and reevaluate.”

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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