NASA’s ambitious plan to put the first woman on the Moon by 2024 has been named Artemis. It was set in motion following an additional increase to the agency’s budget.
NASA’s plans for the first woman on the lunar surface ever comes nearly five decades after the men set their foot there.
Artemis is the Greek goddess of the Moon and the twin sister of the god Apollo. The Apollo program famously put the first men on the lunar surface in the 1960 and 70s, the CNN reported.
Trump announced on Monday that he was adding $1.6 billion to NASA’s budget “so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“Under my Administration, we are restoring @NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars,” he tweeted.
The budget increase is on top of the initial $21 billion budget request from NASA to accelerate the return to the lunar surface.
Only 12 humans, all male, have so far walked on the Moon and they were all American, according to Bettina Inclan, NASA Communications Director.
“The last person walked on the Moon in 1972,” Inclan told CNN in a statement. “No woman has ever walked on the lunar surface.”
“This investment is a down payment on NASA’s efforts and will allow us to move forward in design, development and exploration,” Bridenstine said.
“The first woman will be an American on the surface of the moon in five years,” Bridenstine had said in April during the Space Symposium conference in Colorado Springs. “That is an extreme declaration and a charge that we are going to live up to at NASA.”
The Artemis program is still very much in its infancy, the CNN report added. While NASA has been developing a rocket and crew capsule to take people into deep space, those vehicles still have yet to actually carry any astronauts.
Additionally, NASA still needs to develop a lot of new hardware, including new lunar landers, in order for this project to be a success. Plus, the space agency still needs to get Congress’s approval for the program’s budget.
“To land American astronauts on the Moon by 2024, we are working through the acquisition approach for the various projects,” said NASA in a statement. “Our efforts will include new work at NASA centers to provide the key technologies and scientific payloads needed for the lunar surface, adding to efforts already underway across the country.”
Fifty years after the first person set his foot on the moon, NASA will also reveal three lunar rocks that Neil Armstrong picked using tongs to pile about 20 rocks into a specialized collection box, with barely 10 minutes to go before the end of his moonwalk, the Washington Post reported.
The upcoming experiments, on vacuum-sealed cores and a long-frozen rock, can be performed only once, at the precise moment the samples are opened. That’s why the materials have been held back since they were retrieved from the moon, said Ryan Zeigler, who curates the Apollo rocks collection.
NASA was waiting for the right scientists, with the right technologies, at the right time, the Washington Post report added.
With Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary this year and renewed interest in the moon ahead of a proposed return mission, Zeigler said, that right time was now.