When Victor Glover Jr. was growing up in Southern California, he didn’t imagine that a trip to space, let alone a lunar mission, would be in his future.
“When I tell kids to dream big, I am telling them from a place of me being 16 and not dreaming this big,” said Glover, now 46, after it was announced he would be a part of NASA’s Artemis II mission. “I was not able to see this in my own future. But I'm lucky I had people in my life who believed in me and helped me to get here anyway.”
This week, NASA announced the crew for Artemis II, which will conduct a 10-day mission to circle the moon, before splashing back down in the Pacific Ocean. The four person team will be the first aboard NASA’s foundational deep space rocket, the Space Launch System, and Orion spacecraft, to “confirm all the spacecraft’s systems operate as designed with crew aboard in the actual environment of deep space.”
Glover, who will act as pilot for the 2024 mission, will make history as the first black astronaut assigned to a lunar mission. Artemis II, NASA hopes, will advance their lunar surface program to return man to the moon 2025.
“I was speechless, I was shocked. I mean, I'm still a little bit in shock,” admitted Glover after it was announced he would pilot the Artemis II mission. “I'm still processing all of this, but it's humbling and exciting.”
Glover earned his wings in 2001, and according to NASA, has accumulated 3,000 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft, over 400 carrier arrested landings and 24 combat missions. He was selected as one of just eight members of NASA’s 21st astronaut class, graduating in 2013.
It’s all been preparing him for this moment.
“My very first flight was July 6 of 2000, and so in that time, I've developed a little bit of a framework for how I learned complex systems from, you know, the F-18 Hornet, or the an aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, which I served on and had to learn a lot about, or the International Space Station. You've got all of these different systems, but I break it down into some simple things that I want to know. ‘How do I use it? How do I break it? And how does it break me?’” said Glover.
Joining Glover on the mission is Commander Reid Wiseman, Mission Specialist Christina Hammock Koch, and Mission Specialist Jeremy Hasen. Koch will make history of her own as the first woman on a lunar mission. The crew, according to Glover, will begin training in June. But beyond the expected physical rigors of spaceflight, Glover is keeping mindful of the mental and emotional challenges.
“It's a harsh environment; there's no air, you're above the atmosphere, it's really hot and really cold. It's a really challenging place,” admitted Glover. “Even when you're on the International Space Station, and you have — I had at one point 10 other people up there — you can still feel isolated, because Earth and most of the things you love and all the people you love, except for your crew, are down there.”
NASA will ensure that the Artemis II team will maintain grounded to their family members while on their mission. The crew will have tablets on the mission, as well as a satellite data link that will allow for connections with physicians, mission control and, importantly, psychiatrists and psychologists. They’ll also be able to conference with their families.
“We have folks that help us to prepare emotionally, and mentally for that aspect of the mission as well. And also a big piece of that is it's your family, having connection with your family and loved ones, and then having a connection with you. But that's maybe the most challenging aspect, but also not a very talked about part of human spaceflight,” Glover added.
One of the best parts so far of learning he would head to space next year: telling his four daughters.
“They were so excited, it blew me away. I wasn't expecting it,” he recalled. “I feel like this [has] kind of become normal to them. But they were very excited about this, as am I and so that was a really special moment.”
Glover recently served as pilot and second-in-command on the Crew-1 SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft known as Resilience. When Glover touched down on the International Space Station, he became the first Black astronaut to live on the ISS.
“I'm going to spend the next year and a half or more learning about this spacecraft in intricate detail, but learning also what we can do to fly the spacecraft and how we can interact with it, to make sure that the mission has a chance of success, but most important that we can keep each other safe.”
While there is obviously no gravity in space, Glover says he’s very cognizant of the weight of this moment.
“Kids of all colors look up to us, and me specifically. And I know that, but I am also glad little kids who look like I looked when I was a kid can see themselves in me and what I do,” Glover said, reflecting on the impact of his assignment on this diverse crew.
“Our astronaut corps represents our country, and this mission represents that astronaut corps. And that is possible because of decisions made a long time ago intentionally to make representation and diversity, bringing the tools and talents and skills of our entire country together to attack the most complex problems humans have ever faced," Glover said. "And so I love that this mission is representative of all that.”