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03:17 - Source: CNN Business
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The first 18 astronauts of the Artemis program, NASA’s effort to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024, have been selected.

The diverse team of astronauts, including those new to NASA and veterans of spaceflight, were announced by US Vice President Mike Pence during the eighth meeting of the National Space Council at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Also present at the meeting to share in the announcement was NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, who discussed updates for the Artemis program.

“My fellow Americans, I give you the heroes of the future that will carry us back to the moon and beyond, the Artemis generation,” Pence said after reading the 18 names.

Those NASA astronauts are:

  • Joseph Acaba
  • Kayla Barron
  • Raja Chari
  • Matthew Dominick
  • Victor Glover
  • Warren “Woody” Hoburg
  • Jonny Kim
  • Christina Koch
  • Kjell Lindgren
  • Nicole Mann
  • Anne McClain
  • Jessica Meir
  • Jasmin Moghbeli
  • Kate Rubins
  • Frank Rubio
  • Scott Tingle
  • Jessica Watkins
  • Stephanie Wilson

Glover and Rubins are currently on the International Space Station.

Watkins, Dominick, McClain, Acaba and Meir walked out on the stage after they were announced, and the rest of the astronauts were seen on screen via Zoom. The astronauts said they view each other as friends and colleagues and will be excited for any among them chosen to be the next crew landing on the moon.

The agency will announce flight assignments for these astronauts later. The first woman to land on the moon has not been determined yet.

“It is amazing to think that the next man and first woman on the Moon are among the names that we just read. The Artemis Team astronauts are the future of American space exploration – and that future is bright,” Pence said.

Before they were introduced, Bridenstine clarified, “this is our first cadre of our Artemis astronauts. There’s gonna be more.”

“We are incredibly grateful for the president and vice president’s support of the Artemis program, as well as the bipartisan support for all of NASA’s science, aeronautics research, technology development, and human exploration goals,” Bridenstine said. “As a result, we’re excited to share this next step in exploration – naming the Artemis Team of astronauts who will lead the way, which includes the first woman and next man to walk on the lunar surface.”

During the council meeting, Bridenstine also discussed other milestones achieved for the Artemis program, including the introduction of the Artemis Accords and signing by other nations; the completion of the core stage of the SLS rocket and Orion crew capsule that will carry Artemis astronauts to space; and progress on the Gateway lunar outpost that will help astronauts land on the moon.

He also said the agency has funding for a human landing system – something the agency hasn’t had since 1972 – and are currently reviewing three different companies that could build the lander.

Bridenstine anticipates that his time as the 13th administrator of NASA will end once the Biden presidency begins and said he was grateful for all of the strong bipartisan support NASA has received in funding the Artemis program.

“It’s been the joy of my life to serve this little agency called NASA that does extraordinary things,” Bridenstine said.

Pence also announced that US President Donald Trump has issued a new National Spacy Policy, published Wednesday.

“The National Space Policy provides the President’s direction to the executive branch on all space activities. It emphasizes that space is critical to our security and our way of life, and lays out the fundamental principles to put America first in space,” Pence said.

America continues to face an era of competition in space, Pence said, “a competition that America is winning today, and we’re gonna keep on winning in space for generations to come.”

The new policy essentially builds on the existing policy and “reaffirms the nation’s interest to act responsibly in space” and achieve sustainability in space while “recognizing new challenges and opportunities,” especially with regards to commercial space activities, international cooperation and national security, said Scott Pace, executive secretary of the National Space Council.

Space Force bases

Pence also announced Wednesday that Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base will be renamed Space Force stations.

“Today we make history, with the first two installations in the history of the United States Space force to bear the name of this new branch of the service,” Pence said while at Cape Canaveral.

The two bases will now be referred to as Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and Patrick Space Force Base.

While in Florida, Pence paid tribute to the late US Air Force officer and test pilot Chuck Yeager, who passed away earlier this week. The vice president also announced that President Donald Trump was calling on him to identify future Space Force bases that could be named in honor of Yeager, who broke the sound barrier when he tested the X-1 in October 1947.

The US Air Force Space Command last December was designated the United States Space Force, making it the newest military service and the first new service since the US Air Force came into being in 1947.

At the time, Gen. John Raymond, the commander of US Space Command and Air Force Space Command, said that while the Air Force will provide the bulk of support to the Space Force, several Air Force bases were likely to be renamed to reflect their importance to the Space Force’s mission.

“We do have a plan to rename the principal Air Force bases that house space units to be Space Bases,” Raymond said.

An Air Force memorandum obtained by CNN last year identified the six military bases that could house US Space Command. Four of the proposed locations were located in Colorado. The other two locations were in Alabama and California.

The Space Force was partly established to address concerns about threats to US satellites, which are critical to military operations and commercial business.

Raymond said last year that the 16,000 active duty airmen and civilians who were in the Air Force Space Command would be assigned to the new Space Force, though officials made clear those personnel will not actually become members of the Space Force and would remain in the Air Force for the time being.

CNN’s Devan Cole and Ryan Browne contributed to this report.