NASA astronaut Jessica Meir of Caribou answers questions following a flag donation event at the Maine State House in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Maine astronaut Jessica Meir will not orbit the moon next year, but she still has a chance to leave her footprint in future missions.

NASA on Monday announced the crew of the Artemis II mission that will test equipment while flying fly farther into space than any humans since the Apollo program ended 51 years ago.

Meir was not selected for Artemis II, but is among the 18 candidates training for the three crewed Artemis missions. Artemis III will send four astronauts to the moon in 2025 and Artemis IV is expected to make a second lunar landing in 2027.

On Artemis II, the mission’s commander, Reid Wiseman, will be joined by Victor Glover, an African American naval aviator; Christina Koch, who holds the world record for the longest spaceflight by a woman; and Canada’s Jeremy Hansen, a former fighter pilot and the crew’s lone space rookie. Wiseman, Glover and Koch all have lived on the International Space Station. All four are in their 40s.

“This is humanity’s crew,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.

NASA Moon Astronauts

From left, Jeremy Hansen, Victor Glover, Reid Wiseman and Christina Hammock Koch celebrate Monday at the Johnson Space Center’s Ellington Field in Houston after being introduced by NASA as the crew that will fly the Artemis II around the moon by the end of next year. Michael Wyke/Associated Press

Koch and Meir made history when they participated in the first all-female spacewalk in 2019.


This is the first moon crew to include someone from outside the U.S. – and the first crew in NASA’s new moon program named Artemis after the twin sister of mythology’s Apollo. Late last year, an empty Orion capsule flew to the moon and back in a long-awaited dress rehearsal.

During the 10-day mission, the four astronauts will be the first to fly NASA’s Orion capsule, launching atop a Space Launch System rocket from Kennedy Space Center no earlier than late 2024. They will not land or even go into lunar orbit, but rather fly around the moon and head straight back to Earth, a prelude to a lunar landing by two others a year later.

The mission will test and stress the Orion’s life-support systems to prove the capabilities and techniques required to live and work in deep space, NASA said.

NASA says Artemis II will build on the successful Artemis I test flight, which last year sent an uncrewed Orion, launched atop the Space Launch System rocket, on a 1.4 million-mile journey to test systems before astronauts fly aboard the systems.

Meir spent 205 days in space starting on Sept. 25, 2019. During that mission, she made 3,280 orbits of Earth and traveled 86.9 million miles. She was the first Maine woman to travel to space, where she worked alongside Maine astronaut Chris Cassidy on the International Space Station for eight days.

During Apollo, NASA sent 24 astronauts to the moon from 1968 through 1972. Twelve of them landed. All were military-trained male test pilots except for Apollo 17’s Harrison Schmitt, a geologist who closed out that moonlanding era alongside the late Gene Cernan.


Provided this next 10-day moonshot goes well, NASA aims to land two astronauts on the moon by 2025 or so.

NASA picked from 41 active astronauts for its first Artemis crew. Canada had four candidates. Almost all of them took part in Monday’s ceremony at Johnson Space Center’s Ellington Field, a pep rally of sorts that ended with Wiseman leading the crowd in a chant.

President Biden spoke with the four astronauts and their families on Sunday. In a tweet Monday, Biden said the mission “will inspire the next generation of explorers, and show every child – in America, in Canada, and across the world – that if they can dream it, they can be it.”

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

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