The upcoming Artemis Mars mission includes Reid Wiseman (bottom left), who trained at NAS Pax River, and Christina Koch (bottom right), who lived in Annapolis and sailed on the Severn River. NASA photo

NASA’s Moon Test Flight Astronauts Include Two Trained on the Bay

When NASA astronauts take a groundbreaking voyage around the moon next year, two of them will carry with them Chesapeake Bay backgrounds.

Before they became space explorers, Christina Koch lived and sailed in Annapolis while working in Maryland, while Reid Wiseman was born and raised in Baltimore County, Maryland and worked as a test pilot at Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS Pax River).

Koch and Wiseman are among the four astronauts chosen for Artemis II, the first crewed mission set to fly around the moon. The 10-day mission is tentatively scheduled for November 2024.

The Canadian Space Agency will send astronaut Jeremy Hansen, along with NASA astronauts Koch, Wiseman and Victor Glover. It’s the first crewed flight to the moon since 1972 and the first to include a woman or a person of color.

The Artemis II mission is part of NASA’s path to establish a long-term presence at the Moon for science and exploration. Three stages of missions will result in the first lunar landing in 50 years. First, Artemis I was an uncrewed test flight of the Orion spacecraft, launched on Nov. 16, 2022. Next, Artemis II will be Orion‘s first crewed test flight. Finally, Artemis III will fly astronauts to the moon and land humans on the lunar surface. It’s currently targeted for 2025 at the earliest. It will be the first time humans explore the region near the moon’s South Pole.

While Koch and Wiseman will be part of these history-making missions, they’ve both been away from Earth before. Reid spent 156 days in space, May-November 2014. He and other astronauts had a grueling schedule of scientific experiments. During one week, he conducted a record-setting 82 hours of research.

Koch, who became an astronaut in 2013, set records of her own in space. She took the longest single spaceflight by a woman, spending 328 days in space, and participated in the first all-female spacewalk.

“The Artemis II crew represents thousands of people working tirelessly to bring us to the stars. This is their crew, this is our crew, this is humanity’s crew,” says NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

As the world cheers the astronauts on, the Bay region can be especially proud that some of them were shaped by experiences and training here. While Wiseman was assigned as a test pilot and project officer at NAS Pax River, he earned his master’s degree and worked flight programs including the F-35 Lightning II, F-18 weapons separation, Ship Suitability and the T-45 Goshawk. He still has family and friends in the Baltimore area, where he grew up.

Koch lived in Annapolis for a time, and as Bay Bulletin reported, enjoyed sailing locally. The Severn Sailing Association remembered her sailing Snipes there. Koch also worked at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, developing space science instruments.

When she and the rest of the Artemis II crew launch take off for their flight test from Kennedy Space Center, they will launch on NASA’s  Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the only rocket powerful enough to send Orion, its crew and their supplies to the moon in a single launch. Their flight will “prove the Orion spacecraft’s life-support systems, and validate the capabilities and techniques needed for humans to live and work in deep space.”

The ultimate goal of the three Artemis missions is to “usher in a future in which humans consistently access the Moon, and human planetary exploration missions are within reach.” NASA says each Artemis mission will increase knowledge, refine operations and prove technology to prepare for the first human mission to Mars.

-Meg Walburn Viviano