At the last meeting of the Space Council, Mike Pence announced a new cadre of lunar astronauts

On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence hosted his last National Space Council meeting in Florida, using the opportunity to announce a list of NASA astronauts whose future missions to the moon will be considered as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

This cadre of astronauts – It is dubbed as Team Artemis Includes 18 astronauts, some of whom have previous flying experience and others have not yet traveled to space. The list includes some notable names, such as Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, the two women who made history by doing the first spacewalk of all women. Two astronauts, Victor Glover and Kate Robbins, live on the International Space Station. Five out of 18 appeared at a National Space Council meeting today at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida: Meir, Jessica Watkins, Ann McLean, Matthew Dominic, and Joe Akaba.

With no flight missions yet, it is unclear which of the nine women in the group will be the first to be selected to fly to the Moon – a goal that NASA has been promoting since the creation of the Artemis program. And that group is likely to change, according to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein. He said in the meeting: “This is the first cadre of the Artemis astronauts.” “I want to be clear, there will be more.”

The meeting didn’t just focus on astronauts. Pence also announced that President Trump has issued a new national space policy, A. 32-page document Put the president’s satellite vision of the executive branch. “It emphasizes that space is crucial to our security and our way of life, and sets out the basic principles for putting America first in space,” Pence said of the policy. The previous National Space Policy was issued in June 2010 under the Obama administration. Pence also announced today that the administration will rename two Air Force bases – Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Station – to Space Force bases. Another base will be named after Major Pilot Chuck Yeager, who died at the age of 97 on December 7.

The astronaut announcement, in particular, is an interesting statement to be made as the country prepares for a new administration. In the past, shifts led to sudden changes in space policy. Under the Obama administration, NASA has been focusing on putting people on Mars, but in 2017, President Trump signs a space policy directive NASA tasked to return people to the moon. Since then, NASA has been working hard on formulating a program to get astronauts to the surface of the Moon, using a combination of devices that have been in development for a long time as well as spacecraft that still need to be built.

In 2019, Pence famously challenged NASA With the achievement of the first moon landing under the Artemis program by 2024, An incredibly ambitious deadline It will be difficult to meet him. Bridenstine has worked hard to secure additional funding, pressing Congress to spend an additional $ 3.4 billion next year to help fund the moon landers that will take humans to the surface of the moon. So far, lawmakers have drafted legislation that would partially fund these landing craft. But they seem reluctant to provide the full amount.

With President-elect Joe Biden appointed to take office in January, the future of the Artemis program is uncertain. No official associated with the incoming Biden administration has offered any hints about what the new president’s space agenda will look like, especially with regard to the human exploration program.

But for now, NASA is still working toward its moon goal. The Space Launch System – the giant rocket that the space agency plans to use to send people to the moon – is about to undergo a major test in Mississippi ahead of its first unmanned flight, scheduled for late 2021. Early next year, NASA also plans to select two companies going forward In creating new landing craft on the surface of the moon. And now, NASA has a distinct group of astronauts to choose from when the time comes to take people to the moon again.

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With all these pieces in place, it might make it more difficult for the new administration to cancel the Artemis program. But it is possible that some important changes are still in store.

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