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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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a logistics startup founder, a marketing expert, and a solar energy innovator.

Matthew Costello, CEO and co-founder of Voyager Portal

Houston logistics SaaS innovator is making waves with its expanded maritime shipping platform. Photo courtesy of Voyager

For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

"The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now." Read more.

Arielle Rogg, principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises

Arielle Rogg writes in a guest column for InnovationMap about AI in the workforce. Photo via LinkedIn

Arielle Rogg isn't worried about artificial intelligence coming for her job. In fact, she has three reasons why, and she outlines them in a guest column for InnovationMap.

"The advent of AI pushes us humans to acquire new skills and hone our existing abilities so we can work alongside these evolving technologies in a collaborative fashion. AI augments human capabilities rather than replacing us. I believe it will help our society embrace lifelong learning, creating new industries and jobs that have never existed before," she writes in the piece. Read more.

Nathan Childress, founder of Solar Slice

Solar Slice Founder Nathan Childress says his new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet. Photo via LinkedIn

Nuclear engineer and entrepreneur Nathan Childress wants consumers to capture their own ray of sunlight to brighten the prospect of making clean energy a bigger part of the power grid. That's why he founded Solar Slice. The new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet.

Although trained in nuclear power plant design, solar power drew his interest as a cheaper and more accessible alternative, and Childress tells InnovationMap that he thinks that the transition to cleaner energy, in Texas especially, needs to step up.

Recent studies show that 80 to 90 percent of the money invested into fighting climate change “aren’t going to things that people actually consider helpful,” Childress says, adding that “they’re more just projects that sound good, that are not actually taking any action." Read more.

Report: Amid difficult market, Houston sees uptick in VC funding

seeing green

Houston-area startups saw a healthy increase in venture capital funding during the first half of 2024 compared with the same period last year, new data shows.

In the first six months of this year, Houston-area startups attracted $760.55 million in VC funding, according to the latest PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor. That’s up 17.7 percent from the $645.99 million collected in the first six months of 2023.

Keep in mind that these figures might not match previously reported numbers. That’s because PitchBook regularly adjusts data as new information becomes available.

In light of various factors, such as the ongoing hype over artificial intelligence, fundraising will likely continue to be challenging for U.S. startups as a whole, according to Nizar Tarhuni, vice president of institutional research and editorial at PitchBook, a provider of VC data.

Nonetheless, Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), points out that American venture capital “is finding its footing in 2024.”

Across the country, VC funding for startups in the first half of 2024 totaled $93.4 billion, up 6.5 percent from the $87.7 billion raised during the same period last year, according to the PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor.

“With steadily increasing deal values, especially across early-stage investments, more first-time financings, and increased crossover investor participation, [the second quarter of 2024] was a good one for VC,” says Franklin. “Now it’s up to founders, investors, and regulators to support, rather than stifle, these green shoots as the market heads toward a recovery.”

In the second quarter alone, VC funding in the U.S. jumped from $35.4 billion in 2023 to $55.6 billion in 2024. That’s an increase of 57 percent.

By contrast, the Houston area’s VC funding went in the opposite direction. Startups in the region scored $231.79 million in VC during the second quarter of 2024 vs. $333.17 million during the same period a year earlier. That’s a drop of 30 percent.

So far in 2024, Houston-based Fervo Energy dominates VC hauls for startups in the metro area. In March, the provider of geothermal power announced it had secured $244 million in funding, with Oklahoma City-based oil and gas company Devon Energy leading the round.

Fervo’s latest pot of VC represents more than 30 percent of all Houston-area VC funding during the first six months of 2024.

Tim Latimer, co-founder and CEO of Fervo, says the $244 million investment enables his company “to continue to position geothermal at the heart of 24/7 carbon-free energy production.”

Fervo says the latest VC round will support development of its 400-megawatt geothermal project in Beaver County, Utah. The Cape Station facility is expected to start generating power for the grid in 2026.

High-tech Formula 1 cars rev engines toward Houston for unique event

lights out and away we go

Houstonians with a passion for Formula 1 racing have to drive to Austin — and spend a lot of money — to get up close to the innovative cars that reach speeds over 200 miles per hour. That’s all going to change in September.

The Bayou City will be the next host of a Red Bull Showrun. Held on Saturday, September 7 at Discovery Green in downtown Houston, the free event will feature one of Red Bull’s championship-winning RB7 car flying down the streets around the park.

Best of all, it’s completely free to attend. Of course, those who want a great view of the action may purchase $50 grandstand tickets that went on sale this morning.

Held previously in other cities without F1 races such as New York, Dallas, and Washington, D.C., Red Bull uses the Showrun to bring the sport to new fans. Although the sport traces its history to the ‘50s, it has seen a boost in popularity thanks to Formula 1: Drive to Survive, a Netflix show that offers a behind-the-scenes look at key people on each of the 10 teams.

Red Bull’s Formula 1 team is riding particularly high at the moment, having won the Constructors Championship in both 2022 and 2023 on the strength of its car and driver Max Verstappen, who has won three consecutive Drivers’ Championship titles and currently leads the championship this year, too.

"The best part about any Red Bull Showrun is being able to bring Formula One to some fans that have already seen it, but more importantly to some who have never seen Formula One before," David Coulthard, a former Red Bull Racing Grand Prix driver who won 13 races during his 15-year career, said in a statement.

Held from noon to 2 pm, the RB7 car will make a number of trips on the streets, doing doughnuts and burnouts and generally being very fast and loud. In between those runs, the Showrun will feature appearances by other Red Bull athletes and a DJ battle between local legends DJ Mr. Rogers and Chase B, who is the longtime DJ for hip hop star Travis Scott. A complete lineup of appearances will be released at a later date, according to a release.

Fans will also have access to a fan zone with food vendors, F1 racing simulators, Oracle Red Bull Racing merchandise, and other free activities.

For more information, including how to purchase grandstand tickets, visit the event’s website.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.