Artemis II astronauts, including 1st woman and 1st person of color to be on moon mission, share excitement about upcoming trip


(NEW YORK) — Four astronauts are making history as the first team to head to the moon in more than 50 years.

Victor Glover, Christina Hammock Koch and Reid Wiseman of NASA and Jeremy Hansen of the Canadian Space Agency make up the Artemis II team that will fly by the moon. Koch will be the first woman and Glover will be the first person of color who will eventually go on to step foot on the lunar surface.

They spoke with ABC News’ Gio Benitez on “ABC News Live” Monday afternoon about their upcoming mission as well as their excitement.

“I think the thing that’s most going through our minds right now is the team,” said Wiseman, who will be the commander of the flight. “This is a huge effort for NASA for the United States of America, for Canada, for the whole world. And it’s great to have this tiny step completed today. And we are really pumped to take on this challenge.”

Koch made history with fellow astronaut Jessica Mer in October 2019 when they performed the first all-female spacewalk together.

Koch was also selected as an astronaut in 2013 and has completed six spacewalks. She currently holds the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman at 328 days. Benitez asked her how it felt to hold that record.

“The thing about records is that it’s not about any one individual’s success or contribution even,” she said. “It’s about the fact that it marks a milestone of where we’re at and where we’re choosing to go.”

Koch continued, “I always say my biggest hope for any record is that it’s broken as soon as possible because that means we’re continuing to push the boundaries, we’re continuing to go as a team and I look forward to the day that we continue to break boundaries even at the moon.”

Glover said he found out less than a month ago that he would be part of the Artemis II team, but it wasn’t hard to keep it a secret.

Koch said she was excited to tell her family, but her parents admitted they were nervous.

“They told me it’s a little bit different as a parent to watch your child go that far,” Koch said.

The only Canadian on the team, Hansen, currently helps NASA with astronaut training and mission operations.

Not only will this be Hansen’s first mission in space but he will also be the first Canadian to ever travel to the moon.

“It’s a real tribute to American leadership because the United States did not need Canada to go back to the moon,” Hansen said. “They decided to intentionally invite an international partnership to go back to the moon and they’ve lifted Canadians up and they’ve challenged Canadians. Canadians are rising to that challenge. I think it is an important example for the globe today.”

This will be the first set of missions that NASA has used to send a crew to the moon since the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972, more than 50 years ago.

The mission broke several records, including the longest spacewalk and largest lunar samples brought back to Earth and also involved several experiments, including sending five mice into space with the crew.

However, Koch said this mission will be very different from any previous mission to the moon.

“We’ve never gone to the moon to stay and we’ve never gone to the moon in an era where we know how important it is to go for all and by all and that’s what it means to me,” Koch said. “The fact that we are truly answering humanity’s call to explore. If we represent all of humanity, we recognize how important it is that every single person who has a contribution to make is going to be able to make that contribution and our missions will be more successful as a result.”

Artemis II is scheduled to send four astronauts into space in 2024 for a lunar flyby before returning to Earth. If the mission is successful, Artemis III — a moon landing — is scheduled for 2025.

“We’re so excited to take humanity with us,” Wiseman said. “Every one of us on that planet, 7 billion people, [Earth is] going to be about the size of a golf ball out the window when we’re on the far side of the moon and that is going to just take our breath away.”

Glover, the pilot of the mission, said as excited as he is to go into space, he is most excited to land back home.

“I love all the inspirational messages but splashdown. A safe splashdown,” he said.

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