NASA unveiled the crew on Monday for its first human mission to the Moon in more than 50 years – including the first woman and Black man to voyage into deep space.

​Christina Koch, a NASA astronaut who holds the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, will be a mission specialist on next year's Artemis II flight around the Moon.

​NASA's Victor Glover, a naval aviator, will pilot the Orion spacecraft that circles the Moon in November 2024, becoming the first Black man to take part in a lunar mission.

​Rounding out the crew are veteran NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, 47, the mission commander, and Jeremy Hansen, also 47, a former fighter pilot now with the Canadian Space Agency.

​The three Americans and one Canadian will become the first astronauts to venture that deep into space since the historic Apollo missions ended in 1972.

​The Artemis II flight is a prelude to returning humans to the Moon for the first time in a half century and an eventual mission to Mars.

​The three American astronauts have all spent time on the International Space Station (ISS) while Hansen, the Canadian mission specialist, will be making his first space flight.

​The four astronauts, dressed in blue flight suits, were introduced by NASA administrator Bill Nelson at an event at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

​"The largest, most powerful rocket in the world is going to propel them onward and upward into the heavens," Nelson said.

​Koch, 44, an electrical engineer, spent a record 11 consecutive months in space and took part in the first all-female spacewalks while on the ISS.

​"Am I excited?" Koch said. "Absolutely!"

​The 46-year-old Glover said Artemis II is "more than a mission to the Moon and back."

​"It is the next step that gets humanity to Mars," he said.

​Mars by 2040

Wiseman, the mission commander, said the diverse crew was made up of "exceptional operators."

​"We're just all professional explorers," he told AFP.

​"We are representing our nation," Wiseman said, but "we need the entire world to go along with us."

​Francois-Philippe Champagne, Canada's minister of innovation, science and industry, attended the event and said his country "could not be more proud" to have a Canadian on the crew for the flight.

​As part of the Artemis program, NASA aims to send astronauts to the Moon in 2025 – more than five decades after the final Apollo mission.

​Besides putting the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, the US space agency hopes to establish a lasting human presence on the lunar surface as a stepping stone for an eventual voyage to Mars.

​Nelson, the NASA chief, has said he expects a crewed mission to Mars by the year 2040.

​The 10-day Artemis II mission will test NASA's powerful Space Launch System rocket as well as the life-support systems aboard the Orion spacecraft.

​The first Artemis flight wrapped up in December with an uncrewed Orion capsule returning safely to Earth after a 25-day journey around the Moon.

​During the trip around Earth's orbiting satellite and back, Orion logged well over a million miles (1.6 million kilometers) and went farther from Earth than any previous habitable spacecraft.

​Only 12 people – all of them white men – have set foot on the Moon.

© Agence France-Presse