When four astronauts take off for a trip around the moon next year, they’ll be led by Reid Wiseman, a Baltimore County native.

The crew will include the first humans to leave low-Earth orbit since NASA’s Apollo 17 mission in 1972. It will also be the first time that the Orion spacecraft will have a crew aboard. The 10-day mission, dubbed Artemis II, will trace a figure eight through the cosmos and around the moon, traveling more than 230,000 miles from Earth.

Wiseman grew up “on the shores of the Loch Raven Reservoir” in the Springdale neighborhood, he said, graduating from Dulaney High School in 1993. He remembers spending a lot of time with his hero — his brother Bill, who was five years older.

“We would just cruise around and learn how to live life,” Wiseman said.

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After attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York and joining the Navy — where he was a test pilot at Naval Air Station Patuxent River — Wiseman signed up for night classes at the Johns Hopkins University, earning a master’s degree in systems engineering in 2006. He said that it’s the most useful degree he has and that it “translates beautifully” into working as an astronaut because it involves managing programs and timelines.

In an email, Ed Schlesinger, dean of the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, said those at the school are excited and proud that one of their graduates is “quite literally expanding our horizons.”

“While many of our graduates have an impact on the world, Reid is definitely taking us to new frontiers!” he said.

Perhaps surprisingly, Wiseman is not someone who gazed up at the stars as a child and dreamed of traveling to the moon someday. It was the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster on Jan. 28, 1986, which killed all seven crew members, that first made him think about space, he said.

“I remember being at Warren Elementary School. I remember the nation just stopping. It was the first time in my life the nation had just stopped,” he said. “I was young, so obviously, that’s very impressionable on me. So that’s probably a large factor in it.”

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After graduating from Dulaney High School, Wiseman said, he was mostly excited about getting done with college, earning his degree, and becoming “a useful human to society.”

After graduating from Rensselaer, he joined the Navy as a commissioned officer. Wiseman served as a pilot in two deployments during the Iraq War, then was assigned as a test pilot at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. He was deployed at sea in 2009 when he was selected for astronaut training.

The mission

Leading a crew on a flight around the moon will not be Wiseman’s first time leaving Earth. He spent more than 100 days aboard the International Space Station in 2014, completing hundreds of experiments and two spacewalks.

Artemis II, though, is a new frontier. The mission is designed to prove NASA has the capability to send humans back to the moon, to Mars and beyond.

The Artemis II crew in an Orion simulator at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Wiseman is second from the right. (James Blair - NASA - JSC)

“It’s our turn to go explore where we haven’t been in a long time. Where we haven’t been in our lifetimes,” he said. “Our mission is going to be just amazing.”

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Artemis I, which lasted for 25 days in 2022, was a successful demonstration of the Orion space vehicle’s systems in outer space, testing the ship’s entry, descent, splashdown and recovery capabilities before a crew was picked for Artemis II.

The crew of Artemis II will not land on the moon, but will travel around it. It will be the first time the Orion spacecraft is staffed by humans onboard. The crew also includes fellow astronauts Christina Hammock Koch, the first woman to go on a lunar mission, and Victor Glover, the first person of color to go a lunar mission.

Wiseman has taken several space walks, but he says his favorite part of the job is not that, nor is it donning the space suit or experiencing zero gravity. It’s speaking to kids about his experiences.

“I just want to spark a little bit of imagination in them,” he said. “I want to make them a little bit of dreamers.”

“I really hope kids in the inner city in Baltimore look at our crew and go ‘Wow, I can do that. Let me try to find that passion,’” he said.

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And in case you were wondering, yes, Wiseman does have a favorite movie about outer space.

“Easily ‘Apollo 13.’ I think it was very, very well done,” he said of the 1995 Tom Hanks film about a lunar mission in 1970 that nearly ended in disaster but from which the crew was safely returned home. “The acting was perfect. A lot of the in-space imagery really felt like being there.”

cody.boteler@thebaltimorebanner.com

Cody Boteler is a reporter on The Banner’s Express Desk, reporting on breaking news, trending stories and interesting things in and around Baltimore. His work has appeared in The Baltimore Sun, USA TODAY, Baltimore magazine and others.

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