Last year, NASA had said that in four years, it would be landing the first woman ever on the moon, and returning to Earth’s only natural satellite for the first time since 1972, through its Artemis programme. Now, in a release on September 22, NASA has shared an update outlining its plan, announcing a whopping $28 billion plan for the return to the lunar surface.
The funds are all going to be used for the development of machinery; one billion dollars of the budget will go directly to the development of a commercial human lunar system that will take humans to the moon's surface. An allotment of $651 million will be used to support the Orion Spacecraft and the rocket that Boeing is building for the moon mission—called the Space Launch System or SLS, on which NASA has already spent at least $11.9 billion.
The mission is named Artemis after the Greek goddess of the moon and the twin sister of Apollo. It's the antithesis to the NASA mission which last landed humans on the moon, Apollo 17. Only 12 humans, all male, have ever walked on the moon and they were all American, according to Bettina Inclán, NASA Communications Director. And with Artemis, they are finally planning to launch women on our satellite too.
Currently, there are just 12 active women astronauts, excluding the five other female astronauts who graduated from training earlier this year. The crew for the 2024 mission, however, has not yet been named. According to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, the first woman to walk on the moon would be somebody “who has been proven, somebody who has flown, somebody who has been on the International Space Station already.”
The Artemis programme is set to search for and potentially extract resources such as water from the Moon, which can be converted into other usable resources such as oxygen and fuel. NASA also hopes to develop new mobility capabilities that will allow astronauts to explore new regions of the Moon.
“We’re going back to the Moon for scientific discovery, economic benefits, and inspiration for a new generation of explorers,” said Bridenstine in their press release. “As we build up a sustainable presence, we’re also building momentum toward those first human steps on the Red Planet.”
The mission is set to launch in 2023. According to their plan, the astronauts will be fitted with modern space suits that allow for greater flexibility and movement than the spacesuits used by Apollo-era astronauts, and they will be tasked with collecting samples.
The first instalment of the Artemis I mission, on track to launch in 2021, will not be with any astronauts. Instead, it plans to use robots, using commercial delivery services to "send dozens of new science investigations and technology demonstrations" to the Moon twice.
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