NASA is ready to announce its next batch of astronaut candidates, and you can watch the event live.
The agency will announce the 2021 astronaut class Monday (Nov. 6) at 12:30 p.m. EST (0530 GMT). The event will run live on NASA Television, NASA social media channels, the NASA app and also here at Space.com.
More than 12,000 U.S. citizens applied in 2020 to become an astronaut of the “Artemis Generation”, or what NASA has termed the astronauts expected to participate in the Artemis program for moon missions and the planned lunar Gateway space station. Moonbound astronauts will fly on the Orion spacecraft and Deep Space Launch system that will have their first uncrewed moon mission together no earlier than February 2022.
The first Artemis crewed mission (in lunar orbit) is expected in 2024 and the first landing mission in 2025. Existing agency astronauts termed the “Artemis Team” will get those first seats, though, along with an unidentified Canadian who will fly on the 2024 Artemis II orbital mission under an agreement with the Canadian Space Agency.
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While the new class would be eligible for Artemis assignments eventually, it’s unclear if they will reach the International Space Station — even though NASA’s announcement says the new astronaut candidates would qualify for full astronaut status and flight assignment to the orbiting complex after two years of training.
Since the new class would receive flight assignments no earlier than 2024, that pegs the timing in the same year as the current retirement date for the ISS. Even after being assigned to a flight, the astronauts’ mission training would take another couple of years — meaning the earliest the new class could get to the orbiting complex would be around 2026.
That said, NASA hopes to extend the ISS retirement date to 2028 or even 2030, and just revealed a bunch of commercial space station designs that the 2021 class may one day visit in the coming decade or so.
The new astronaut candidates will report to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston in January 2022, where they will begin their two-year qualification cycle in aspects such as the Russian language, spacewalking skills, teamwork in isolated conditions, piloting high-performance aircraft and learning spacecraft systems.
NASA’s last astronaut class of 2017, nicknamed the Turtles, included 12 U.S. individuals split pretty evenly among male and female candidates; several international astronaut candidates also joined their respective country’s corps at that time.
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