Meet Commander Reid Wiseman, the responsible for the success of the Artemis II mission once it launches. Photo courtesy of NASA

The world now knows the names of the four Houston-based astronauts who will launch in the first crewed moon mission in 50 years. NASA's Artemis II will see the first woman and person of color helming a lunar voyage, a first since the agency's history.

Astronaut Christina Hammock Koch, herself part of a history-making astronaut class and first all-female spacewalk— will join Victor Glover — the first person of color heading to the moon. Rookie Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen rounds out the crew with Commander Reid Wiseman.

Building on the unmanned Artemis I mission to the moon that concluded in December, Artemis II is slated to launch around November 2024, per NASA. In a scene familiar to space fans, the Artemis II crew will deploy inside the cozy Orion spacecraft that will sit atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Artemis II's crew will spend some 10 days in orbit and even venture farther than the 1.4 million miles logged by Artemis I, adding to the historic nature of the journey. After moon orbit, the spacecraft will return to Earth for splashdown and recovery — always a celebrated moment after the highly anticipated takeoff.

Data gathered from Artemis II will pad information from Artemis I in effort to create a permanent moon outpost. On the moon, crews will learn how to live and work away from Earth, which will pave the way for the eventual mission to Mars. A planned Artemis III mission may launch in 2025 or '26, per NASA, which picks up from the last trip, Apollo 17 in 1972. The Artemis III mission, NASA promises, will see the first woman and person of color on the moon.

CultureMap caught up with a very busy Wiseman, who is now responsible for the success of the Artemis II mission once it launches. Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, the 47-year-old earned his master's degree from Johns Hopkins University and is a decorated naval aviator, serving in the Middle East as a fighter pilot. The Artemis II mission commander completed a 165-day trip to the International Space Station in 2014 and was most recently chief of the astronaut office, per his bio. He has two sons with wife Carol, who passed away from cancer in May 2020.

The Artemis II crew was announced earlier this week. Photo courtesy of NASA

CultureMap: Congratulations, Commander. As Artemis II's leader, you are joining lunar mission commander names like the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, and Apollo 13's Jim Lovell. Do you allow yourself to think like that?

ReidWiseman: Thank you. I do not allow myself to think like that. I think if you get to meet this crew — Victor Glover, Christina Koch, Jeremy Hanson — I really think we would say we want this to be so routine. We want Artemis II to be so successful and so long term that people completely forget about us. We're just that initial little stepping stone. I really hope that's the case. I am flying with an incredible group of heroes and I can't wait to go get this job done.

CM: What does it mean, as mission commander, to have the safety — and the lives — of these amazing and history-making astronauts in your hands once you launch?

RW: It means everything to me.

CM: You and the crew are so incredibly accomplished in your own individual spaces. Yet when you get to NASA — as Christina Koch once told me — you're kind of learning anew. What are you learning now?

RW: When you look at our crew, our next step is to learn about the spacecraft that will be operating in deep space. It's a very capable, very redundant, robust machine. So we have to get in the classroom, we've got to learn about all the capabilities, but we also have to get out and see the workforce.

We'll be the first humans to ever ride on this vehicle. And there's a lot of unknowns. We have a lot of systems to test. Uh One was very successful.

We need to hit the books and then we need to get in the sim [simulator], we need to practice simulations, learn how we all operate together as a team and then learn about the failure modes of the vehicle, how we can work around to keep ourselves safe and keep the mission going. And then after that, I think we'll be ready to look at Florida — and head out to the moon.

CM: Do prior lunar flight commanders and icons — like Armstrong and Lovell — serve as role models? How about the astronaut network in general?

RW: I think we look at those legends as their heroes, but they are also friends. Those folks really gave their lives to our nation and when they landed on the moon for the first time. But the amazing part for us as younger astronauts is they're still heavily engaged in everything we do right now.

I talked to Jack [Harrrison] Schmitt just a few months ago. Dave Scott still comes by every time he can to talk about geologic processes on the moon. Like these guys are our friends. It's really, really neat.

Neil Armstrong was amazing. John Young was incredible — he led our office for a number of years. Those guys are heroes to us for sure. When you look at who has taught me the most about being an astronaut, it's the folks I flew with on my first mission. It's the folks that I've worked with in the astronaut office. Now, I've seen some exceptional examples of leadership and followership and both skills are critical to be an astronaut.

CM: You learned you'll be headed to the moon — the dream adventure of billions all over the world— in the most office kind of way, we hear.

RW: Uh yeah, we all goofed up [laughs]. We missed the meeting. The chief astronaut put a placeholder on my schedule for a different topic. I was actually at a doctor's office and the doctor just walked in. So, I missed the first part of the meeting and I was able to use Microsoft Teams and dial in towards the end.

When the camera popped up, I saw the chief astronaut — who I expected to see for my meeting. But then, I also saw Norm Knight, our director of flight operations. I also saw Victor Glover and Christina Koch. And I was like, ‘oh boy, I think I just missed something big here.’

CM: Well, we've all missed meetings. But this was big — like headed to the moon big.

RW: Right [laughs]. It turned out that both Christina and Victor also missed the beginning of the meeting. So, we all showed up in perfect harmony.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

The history-making team was announced at Ellington Field near Johnson Space Center in Houston. Photo via LinkedIn

NASA names four astronauts heading to the moon at Houston event

ready for liftoff

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency announced the four astronauts who will be onboard the Artemis II mission around the moon yesterday at an event at Ellington Field near NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The 10-day mission is slated to put the first woman and the first person of color on the moon.

“For the first time in more than 50 years, these individuals – the Artemis II crew – will be the first humans to fly to the vicinity of the Moon. Among the crew are the first woman, first person of color, and first Canadian on a lunar mission, and all four astronauts will represent the best of humanity as they explore for the benefit of all,” says JSC Director Vanessa Wyche. “This mission paves the way for the expansion of human deep space exploration and presents new opportunities for scientific discoveries, commercial, industry and academic partnerships and the Artemis Generation.”

The crew assignments include:

  • Commander Reid Wiseman, who has logged more than 165 days in space in two trips. He previously served as a flight engineer aboard the International Station and most recently served as chief of the Astronaut Office from December 2020 until November 2022.
  • Pilot Victor Glover, who served as pilot on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission in 2021. This will be his second trip to space.
  • Mission Specialist 1 Christina Hammock Koch, who set the record for longest single spaceflight by a woman with a total of 328 days in space and participated in the first all-female spacewalks. This will be her second flight into space.
  • Mission Specialist 2 Jeremy Hansen, representing Canada. Hansen is a colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces and former fighter pilot and has served as Capcom in NASA's Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center. He was the first Canadian to lead a NASA astronaut class. This will be his first flight into space.

Meet the four astronauts who will return humans to the moon. Photo courtesy of NASA

“NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, and Christina Hammock Koch, and CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen, each has their own story, but, together, they represent our creed: E pluribus unum – out of many, one," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. "Together, we are ushering in a new era of exploration for a new generation of star sailors and dreamers–the Artemis Generation.”

Artemis II is slated to build upon the uncrewed Artemis I mission that was completed in December. The crew will be NASA's first to aboard the agency's deep space rocket, the Space Launch System, and Orion spacecraft. They will test the spacecrafts' systems to ensure they operate as planned for humans in deep space before setting course for the moon.

NASA's Artemis program collaborates with commercial and international partners with the goal of establishing a long-term presence on the moon. Lessons learned from the missions are planned to be used to send the first astronauts to Mars.

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Houston college lands $5M NASA grant to launch new aerospace research center

to infinity and beyond

The University of Houston was one of seven minority-serving institutions to receive a nearly $5 million grant this month to support aerospace research focused on extending human presence on the moon and Mars.

The $4,996,136 grant over five years is funded by the NASA Office of STEM Engagement Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO) program. It will go toward creating the NASA MIRO Inflatable Deployable Environments and Adaptive Space Systems (IDEAS2) Center at UH, according to a statement from the university.

“The vision of the IDEAS2 Center is to become a premier national innovation hub that propels NASA-centric, state-of-the-art research and promotes 21st-century aerospace education,” Karolos Grigoriadis, Moores Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of aerospace engineering at UH, said in a statement.

Another goal of the grant is to develop the next generation of aerospace professionals.

Graduate, undergraduate and even middle and high school students will conduct research out of IDEAS2 and work closely with the Johnson Space Center, located in the Houston area.

The center will collaborate with Texas A&M University, Houston Community College, San Jacinto College and Stanford University.

Grigoriadis will lead the center. Dimitris Lagoudas, from Texas A&M University, and Olga Bannova, UH's research professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Space Architecture graduate program, will serve as associate directors.

"Our mission is to establish a sustainable nexus of excellence in aerospace engineering research and education supported by targeted multi-institutional collaborations, strategic partnerships and diverse educational initiatives,” Grigoriadis said.

Industrial partners include Boeing, Axiom Space, Bastion Technologies and Lockheed Martin, according to UH.

UH is part of 21 higher-education institutions to receive about $45 million through NASA MUREP grants.

According to NASA, the six other universities to received about $5 million MIRO grants over five years and their projects includes:

  • Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage: Alaska Pacific University Microplastics Research and Education Center
  • California State University in Fullerton: SpaceIgnite Center for Advanced Research-Education in Combustion
  • City University of New York, Hunter College in New York: NASA-Hunter College Center for Advanced Energy Storage for Space
  • Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee: Integrative Space Additive Manufacturing: Opportunities for Workforce-Development in NASA Related Materials Research and Education
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark:AI Powered Solar Eruption Center of Excellence in Research and Education
  • University of Illinois in Chicago: Center for In-Space Manufacturing: Recycling and Regolith Processing

Fourteen other institutions will receive up to $750,000 each over the course of a three-year period. Those include:

  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge
  • West Virginia University in Morgantown
  • University of Puerto Rico in San Juan
  • Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada
  • Oklahoma State University in Stillwater
  • Iowa State University in Ames
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks in Fairbanks
  • University of the Virgin Islands in Charlotte Amalie
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu
  • University of Idaho in Moscow
  • University of Arkansas in Little Rock
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City
  • Satellite Datastreams

NASA's MUREP hosted its annual "Space Tank" pitch event at Space Center Houston last month. Teams from across the country — including three Texas teams — pitched business plans based on NASA-originated technology. Click here to learn more about the seven finalists.

Booming Houston suburb, other Texas towns among the fastest-growing U.S. cities in 2023

by the numbers

One Houston suburb experienced one of the most rapid growth spurts in the country last year: Fulshear, whose population grew by 25.6 percent, more than 51 times that of the nation’s growth rate of 0.5 percent. The city's population was 42,616 as of July 1, 2023.

According to U.S. Census Bureau's Vintage 2023 Population Estimates, released Thursday, May 16, Fulshear — which lies west of Katy in northwest Fort Bend County - ranked No. 2 on the list of fastest-growing cities with a population of 20,000 or more. It's no wonder iconic Houston restaurants like Molina's Cantina see opportunities there.

The South still dominates the nation's growth, even as America’s Northeast and Midwest cities are rebounding slightly from years of population drops. The census estimates showed 13 of the 15 fastest-growing cities in the U.S. were in the South — eight in Texas alone.

The Texas cities joining Fulshear on the fastest-growing-cities list are:

  • Celina (No. 1) with 26.6 percent growth (42,616 total population)
  • Princeton (No. 3) with 22.3 percent growth (28,027 total population)
  • Anna (No. 4) with 16.9 percent growth (27,501 total population)
  • Georgetown (No. 8) with 10.6 percent growth (96,312 total population)
  • Prosper (No. 9) with 10.5 percent growth (41,660 total population)
  • Forney (No. 10) with 10.4 percent growth (35,470 total population)
  • Kyle (No. 11) with 9 percent growth (62,548 total population)

Texas trends
San Antonio saw the biggest growth spurt in the United States last year, numbers-wise. The Alamo City added about 22,000 residents. San Antonio now has nearly 1.5 million people, making it the the seventh largest city in the U.S. and second largest in Texas.

Its population boom was followed by those of other Southern cities, including Fort Worth; Charlotte, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Fast-growing Fort Worth (978,000) surpassed San Jose, California (970,000) to become the 12th most populous city in the country.

Meanwhile, population slowed in the Austin area. Jacksonville, Florida (986,000), outpaced Austin (980,000), pushing the Texas capital to 11th largest city in the U.S. (barely ahead of Fort Worth).

Population growth in Georgetown, outside Austin, slowed by more than one-fourth its population growth in 2022, the report says, from 14.4 percent to 10.6 percent. It's the same story in the Central Texas city of Kyle, whose population growth decreased by nearly 2 percent to 9 percent in 2023.

Most populated cities
New York City with nearly 8.3 million people remained the nation's largest city in population as of July 1, 2023. Los Angeles was second at close to 4 million residents, while Chicago was third at 2.7 million and Houston was fourth at 2.3 million residents.

The 15 populous U.S. cities in 2023 were:

  1. New York, New York (8.3 million)
  2. Los Angeles, California (4 million)
  3. Chicago, Illinois (2.7 million)
  4. Houston, Texas (2.3 million)
  5. Phoenix, Arizona (1.7 million)
  6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1.6 million)
  7. San Antonio (1.5 million)
  8. San Diego, California (1.4 million)
  9. Dallas (1.3 million)
  10. Jacksonville, Florida (986,000)
  11. Austin (980,000)
  12. Fort Worth (978,000)
  13. San Jose (970,000)
  14. Columbus, Ohio (913,000)
  15. Charlotte, North Carolina (911,000)

Modest reversals of population declines were seen last year in large cities in the nation's Northeast and Midwest. Detroit, for example, which grew for the first time in decades, had seen an exodus of people since the 1950s. Yet the estimates released Thursday show the population of Michigan’s largest city rose by just 1,852 people from 631,366 in 2022 to 633,218 last year.

It's a milestone for Detroit, which had 1.8 million residents in the 1950s only to see its population dwindle and then plummet through suburban white flight, a 1967 race riot, the migration to the suburbs by many of the Black middle class and the national economic downturn that foreshadowed the city's 2013 bankruptcy filing.

Three of the largest cities in the U.S. that had been bleeding residents this decade staunched those departures somewhat. New York City, which has lost almost 550,000 residents this decade so far, saw a drop of only 77,000 residents last year, about three-fifths the numbers from the previous year.

Los Angeles lost only 1,800 people last year, following a decline in the 2020s of almost 78,000 residents. Chicago, which has lost almost 82,000 people this decade, only had a population drop of 8,200 residents last year.

And San Francisco, which has lost a greater share of residents this decade than any other big city — almost 7.5 percent — actually grew by more than 1,200 residents last year.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

How this Houston clean energy entrepreneur is navigating geothermal's hype to 100x business growth

houston innovators podcast Episode 237

Geothermal energy has been growing in recognition as a major player in the clean energy mix, and while many might think of it as a new climatetech solution, Tim Latimer, co-founder and CEO of Fervo Energy, knows better.

"Every overnight success is a decade in the making, and I think Fervo, fortunately — and geothermal as a whole — has become much more high profile recently as people realize that it can be a tremendous solution to the challenges that our energy sector and climate are facing," he says on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

In fact, Latimer has been bullish on geothermal as a clean energy source since he quit his job as a drilling engineer in oil and gas to pursue a dual degree program — MBA and master's in earth sciences — at Stanford University. He had decided that, with the reluctance of incumbent energy companies to try new technologies, he was going to figure out how to start his own company. Through the Stanford program and Activate, a nonprofit hardtech program that funded two years of Fervo's research and development, Latimer did just that.

And the bet has more than paid off. Since officially launching in 2017, Fervo Energy has raised over $430 million — most recently collecting a $244 million series D round. Even more impressive to Latimer — his idea for drilling horizontal wells works. The company celebrated a successful pilot program last summer by achieving continuous carbon-free geothermal energy production with Project Red, a northern Nevada site made possible through a 2021 partnership with Google.

Next up for Fervo is growing and scaling at around a 100x pace. While Project Red included three wells, Project Cape, a Southwest Utah site, will include around 100 wells with significantly reduced drilling cost and an estimated 2026 delivery. Latimer says there are a dozen other projects like Project Cape that are in the works.

"It's a huge ramp up in our drilling, construction, and powerplant programs from our pilot project, but we've already had tremendous success there," Latimer says of Project Cape. "We think our technology has a really bright future."

While Latimer looks ahead to the rapid growth of Fervo Energy, he says it's all due to the foundation he put in place for the company, which has a culture built on the motto, "Build things that last."

“You’re not going to get somewhere that really changes the world by cutting corners and taking short steps. And, if you want to move the needle on something as complicated as the global energy system that has been built up over hundreds of years with trillions of dollars of capital invested in it – you’re not going to do it overnight," he says on the show. "We’re all in this for the long haul together."