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 podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

coming to Hou

Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.