Nasa to name astronauts who will fly to the Moon

It will be the first crewed mission to the Moon since the Apollo era ended 50 years ago

The Orion spacecraft on its previous Artemis I journey. AFP
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Nasa and the Canadian Space Agency will next month name the four astronauts who will fly to the Moon in 2024.

An announcement will be made on April 3 at 7pm UAE time, in which the identities of three American and one Canadian astronaut will be revealed.

The trip is part of the Artemis 2 mission and follows the success of the uncrewed flight around the Moon that the US space agency completed last year.

"Travelling aboard Nasa’s Orion spacecraft during Artemis II, the mission is the first crewed flight test on the agency’s path to establishing a long-term scientific and human presence on the lunar surface," Nasa said in a statement.

Nasa is trying to build a long-term human presence on the Moon through the Artemis programme and hopes to have astronauts on the surface by the end of this decade, with further ambitions to send them from there to Mars.

Artemis 3 will be the first crewed lunar landing mission, which Nasa hopes will take place in 2025 and will include a woman and a person of colour.

Orion splashdown heralds return to the Moon

Orion splashdown heralds return to the Moon

No humans have travelled to the Moon since the last Apollo flight in 1972.

The plan is to build a station called the Lunar Gateway in the Moon's orbit that astronauts would use as a base, before descending on to the surface using a lander built by SpaceX.

The National revealed last year that the UAE was exploring opportunities to be involved in designing part of the gateway.

US aerospace company Boeing said it had held discussions with Emirates officials about the UAE providing an airlock module — an airtight room that astronauts would use to enter and exit the International Space Station (ISS).

“One of the things that the UAE is working on is the evaluation of whether they are going to put up an airlock module on the gateway, which would be outstanding,” John Mulholland, vice president and ISS programme manager at Boeing, told The National.

“And so, one of the things that we have been working hard on is trying to help the UAE come up with a concept and a design of what that airlock system would be like.”

The UAE and Boeing have yet to sign any agreement on the project, which Mr Mulholland said was still being evaluated.

But if the UAE does sign up, it would mean Emirati astronauts could get more seats on rockets that transport humans to the Moon.

Nasa has said it would need international partners to make the Artemis programme a success.

The ISS, operating now for more than 20 years, is the largest example to date of space collaboration between various countries, with the US, Russia, Canada, Japan and European nations all partners in the project.

But amid talk of retiring the orbiting laboratory, attention has turned to the Moon and Mars for a new era of space exploration.

Emerging space nations such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia have the opportunity to play a crucial role in newer, more advanced projects, giving them access to space.

Next month's announcement will be made at a press conference held at Nasa's Ellington Field at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.

It will also be streamed live on Nasa TV.

Updated: March 23, 2023, 11:05 AM