Sometime this spring, NASA will make one of the biggest announcements in its history when it names the initial four-person crew for its flagship Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon for the first time in 50 years.

Scheduled to launch in 2024, Artemis II will be the program’s first crewed mission to orbit the moon, flying farther into space than any humans since the Apollo program and paving the way for the Artemis III crew to walk on the moon in 2025 — all aboard the most powerful rocket ever built and at a price tag that by then will approach $100 billion.

Yet, as publicized as the Artemis II mission is, the process of how its crew will be chosen is so secretive that it remains a mystery even for many on the inside.

Other than announcing the astronauts’ nationalities — three Americans, one Canadian — NASA has said almost nothing publicly about who will be selected or how that decision will be made.

spoke with nearly a dozen current and former NASA officials and astronauts to pull back the curtain on the secretive selection process. 

Based on those interviews, not only gained exclusive insights into how the crew will be selected — it has also whittled down the list of candidates those insiders say are generating the most buzz at NASA.

At the top of everyone’s list for the first Artemis crew is Reid Wiseman, a 47-year-old decorated naval aviator and test pilot who was first selected to be a NASA astronaut in 2009.

Wiseman stepped down as chief of the astronaut office in November, a prestigious job historically responsible for selecting the initial crew assignment for each mission, but which also comes with a big catch — the chief isn’t eligible to fly in space.