When NASA sends Artemis II to the moon next year, piloting the manned moon mission will be a Black man, the first to undergo such an endeavor. For Victor Glover, it’s an honor that’s been in the making for years.
“I live in the America that sent me to space, told my grandfather he couldn’t fly during the Korean conflict when he was enlisted, but he got to sit and watch me fly,” Glover says. “We live in a very complicated country.”
Glover will join three other experienced astronauts on the 321-foot-tall machine to initiate the second great era of lunar exploration. They include the first woman, Christina Hammock Koch and Canadian Jeremy Hansen — the first non-American, and Reid Wiseman.
Only 24 people in the history of this country have traveled to the Moon, and none in the last 50 years. The 10-day trip is planned to launch in November of next year.
While they won’t land on the moon, NASA has announced the following mission, Artemis III, will have two astronauts walk on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.
Glover, a Pomona, California, native, and now Houston area resident, was selected in 2013 as one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class, while working as a Legislative Fellow in the United States Senate. He went on to serve as the pilot and second-in-command on the Crew-1 SpaceX Crew Dragon and as a Flight Engineer on the International Space Station as a part of Expedition 64.
Glover accumulated 3,000 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft, over 400 carrier arrested landings and 24 combat missions.
He talked with the Defender about his storied career.
Defender: This is a monumental accomplishment, which you no doubt recognize. But do you get excited knowing that you’re heading to the moon?
Victor Glover: I’m a test pilot and a military officer who’s been in combat. I know what this means, the seriousness, the training, all the public outreach that’s going to be required because we’re stewards of public resources. So really the feeling that I had was a little bit of shock… I have to be honest. But also I just felt like, wow, this is big. And I don’t know what that feeling is, though, you know, profundity. It just seemed really big.
Defender: What kind of training have you gone through to prepare you to pilot Artemis II?
Glover: During the two-year Astronaut Candidate Training we learned the basics of robotics, learned to speak Russian (That’s one of our major partners flying). We learned how to spacewalk. After training, we became certified astronauts and served in different capacities. I’ve been the operations officer here, incrementally taking care of the crew that’s in orbit and representing them to the ground. And then I was assigned in 2018 as a part of the commercial crew program to fly our newest generation of spacecraft. I piloted a SpaceX dragon, which we named Resilience during the COVID pandemic. And we went to the Space Station in November of 2020 and landed back here on Earth in May of 2021.
Defender: A lot of little boys dream of being astronauts. Is that something you wanted when you were little?
Glover: I always wanted to chase the adventure. I wanted to go fast and far and do different things, but I would say the one thing I’ve always wanted to do is play professional sports. And the team nature of this job is a part of how I got here. That’s a part of how I got into the Navy, my desire for service and also wanting to work together with folks to overcome problems. I didn’t have exposure to engineers and pilots when I was young. I saw a space shuttle launch on TV and thought I would love to drive that machine. That was as close as I got to it. I didn’t even have the context to say, ‘I wanna be an astronaut or a pilot,’ because I didn’t know any of those. I was lucky that I had parents that supported me going to college even though neither of my parents had graduated from a university.
Defender: You view your job as a service that you’re doing, correct?
Glover: There’s a saying in politics, all politics is local, and I think all service is too, right? I get to go all over the world and speak to kids and try to motivate them about the importance of science, technology, good health and achieving and setting good dreams and accomplishing them. But, really the work that I do here in this community, starting in my house with my own children and the local schools here, are things that I can continue and put time into those sustained efforts.
Defender: Is service one of the things that drew you to your fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma?
Glover: Yes, I joined Phi Beta Sigma at my undergraduate university. Our motto of Phi Beta Sigma is “culture for service and service for humanity.” And I can’t wait to really share that with our community here in Houston.
· California Polytechnic State University, BS, General Engineering 1999
· University at Edwards Air Force Base, Master of Science, Flight test engineering from the Air, 2007
· Naval Postgraduate School, Master of Science, Systems Engineering, 2009
· Air University, Master of Military Operational Art and Science, 2010
· Married: Dionna, four children