“Would I have ever thought about boarding a NASA rocket to the moon?” said Reid Wiseman, commander of the Artemis II mission to the moon, with a laugh. “Absolutely not; it wasn’t in my wildest imagination.”

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman has always loved going fast.

“When I was a kid, I wanted to ride trains,” said the Baltimore, Maryland, native.

After joining the Navy, Wiseman wanted to fly.

“Then when I was a pilot, I thought I was an astronaut,” said the current commander of the Artemis II mission to the moon.

Trains and planes depart at 300 mph and 2,200 mph, respectively. Next year, Wiseman and his crew are set to escape Earth’s gravitational pull at 22,600 miles per hour in an Orion spacecraft powered by NASA’s most powerful rocket system yet.

“Would I have ever thought about boarding a NASA rocket to the moon?” Wiseman said with a laugh. “Absolutely not, it wasn’t in my wildest imagination.”

Artemis II heralds a new era in NASA space travel. It is the first crewed mission into lunar orbit since 1972 with Apollo 17. Wiseman will lead astronauts Christina Koch, Victor Glover and Jeremy Hansen on a trip around the moon, a critical step towards the Artemis III mission, when NASA plans to return to the lunar surface. He said his team is giddy at the idea of ​​their lunar flyby.

“We always talk about when we’re on the other side of the moon, looking back across the moon at Earth and taking that look that only 24 people have ever seen in history, and looking at it from the opposite direction,” Wiseman said.

During their mission, four astronauts will confirm that all spacecraft systems are functioning as intended with people aboard in the real-life deep space environment, over the course of an approximately 10-day mission. (Courtesy of NASA)

For Wiseman, Artemis II isn’t just about going fast; it’s about laying the groundwork for a successful moon landing of Artemis III and ultimately traveling to the closest planet to Earth, Mars.

It’s about trying to do the impossible.

“I think by setting the strategy of putting humans on Mars, of actually seeing humans working on another planet, you start making the impossible very, very real and tangible,” Wiseman said. “And I know for a fact that we will get to Mars.”

Just like 50 years ago, when NASA decided to end its missions to the moon in favor of missions in lower Earth orbit due to construction costs and declining national desire, astronauts currently face similar questions about whether it is worth space travel is worth considering climate change and the high cost and use of resources.

Wiseman was quick to argue that space travel is, in fact, the key to our planet’s survival and worth every penny.

He noted that the “Earthrise” photo taken during the 1968 Apollo 8 mission inspired Earth Day and green movements.

Astronaut Reid Wiseman (courtesy of NASA/Josh Valcarcel)

“What we get from going out and exploring has huge benefits for us,” Wiseman said. “Sometimes it’s scientific, sometimes it’s just kind of a human mindset, but we’re always going to benefit from doing great things.”

Take the moon, for example. Wiseman said it’s like an unopened time machine of what Earth was like 4 billion years ago, when a chunk of our planet broke off.

“Even the moon is our eighth continent, it’s made of the same fabric as the Earth,” Wiseman said. “We have so much to learn.”

If all goes as planned, Artemis II will launch in November 2024. Wiseman said he can’t wait to get back into space, despite the arduous mission training that awaits him.

“The first four days I felt very bad because I had never flown in my life,” Wiseman recalled of his first space mission. “It’s hard to eat and it’s hard to drink and it’s hard to go to the bathroom. But then, after four days, it was truly magnificent. You are floating all the time. Impossible things on Earth are easy in space.”

When asked if he fears leading NASA’s first trip to the moon in half a century and traveling 238,900 miles from Earth, Wiseman was honest.

“There are definitely moments where you get scared,” she said. “I think just like everyone else, the first time you do something, you’re a little afraid of leaving our planet in a rocket. There is a lot of fuel. It is an aggressive act. But for the most part, I think once you’re acting, the fear goes away.

He then recalled his previous space missions.

“Two or three days before he gets a little nervous,” Wiseman said. “But then once I get in the vehicle and start doing the mission, it feels completely normal.”

Over the year and a half leading up to the scheduled launch, Wiseman and his crew will train on every aspect of the Artemis II mission. When asked what message he has for those who will gaze upon the moon as it circles it, Wiseman said he wanted others to find their own mission.

“There is a great need to help civilization right now,” Wiseman said. “So find your passion and go change the world.”

Listen to the full conversation with Artemis II Commander and NASA Astronaut Reid Wiseman on the DMV Download Podcast.

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