'Well Beyond My Wildest Dreams': Pomona's Victor Glover Will Pilot NASA's 2024 Moon Mission
It's been more than 50 years since an American has set foot on the moon, or even gotten close to it. But next year, NASA is taking one small step back toward the moon, and a Southern Californian will be charged with flying there.
On Monday, NASA named the four astronauts who will crew the upcoming Artemis II mission — and one is Victor Glover, a Southern California native and the first African American assigned to a lunar mission. Glover and the rest of the crew will lift off in 2024 for a 10-day orbit of the moon — where, he says, he will be able to see Earth way off in the distance and the moon from up close.
Amidst all the training and preparation for the flight, Glover, who was born in Pomona, joined our newsroom's public affairs show "AirTalk" to discuss this upcoming giant leap.
“This is well beyond my wildest dreams,” says Glover, who graduated from Ontario High School in 1994 and went on to study engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo before enlisting in the Navy in 1999 to become a pilot.
Glover’s crew will not be entering lunar orbit; rather, he explained, they will be around the moon on what’s called a free return trajectory. As they leave Earth, the gravitational pull of the moon will bring them close.
Close, in space terms.
“Well, when we say close, we're talking about between 6,000 and 8,000 miles, the diameter of the earth,” Glover says.
After that, they will slingshot around the far side of the moon, according to Glover, and the crew will begin its four-day homecoming.
As you can probably imagine, there’s a lot of preparation involved in carrying out this remarkable mission — like learning how the vehicle flies and spending time in the simulator.
“If you imagine getting ready for any athletic competition, there’s stretching and conditioning and nutrition. There's all these foundational things that all athletes do. And the astronaut core is very similar,” Glover says. “We all have basic blocking and tackling things that we do all of the time, flying our jets, our foreign language training, our space station training systems.”
This won't be Glover's first rodeo — in late 2020, he was part of the crew that flew in the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience capsule to the International Space Station, where he spent six months and completed three spacewalks, becoming the first African American astronaut to live aboard the ISS. He's also an incredibly experienced pilot, with more than 3,000 hours of flight time logged across 40 different types of aircraft.
Though outer space is the backdrop for Artemis II, this mission will reverberate in communities here on Earth. Tuesday, April 4 marks the 55th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Glover says that after Dr. King was killed, protesters at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida demanded that the Apollo mission be called off. And our political climate today is also divided, Glover says, along lines like race or political preference.
This is well beyond my wildest dreams.
“And so this mission also has the power to unify and to bring our country together,” Glover says. “But more important than that is also to heal and to acknowledge a little bit of our history, and where we were and where we are now.”
Glover, a father of four, says he takes his role seriously as a role model to African American kids — and that kids need to truly believe they can be anything.
In the latest episode of Down to Earth, astronaut @AstroVicGlover sits down with his daughter to discuss the important lessons he took away from his time in space. 🌎 pic.twitter.com/liUoX8EBYS— International Space Station (@Space_Station) February 18, 2023
“I hope that this crew can continue to serve as an inspiration for diversity and representation as we go on to explore for all,” Glover says. “I will have Southern California with me in my heart.”
Listen to the conversation
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