For the first time ever, NASA plans to send a woman to the Moon.
This week, the space agency unveiled the latest plans for its Artemis program, which aims to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon in 2024. It would mark the first time since 1972 that humans have touched down on the lunar surface.
NASA said its Artemis plan shows it is "focused on achieving the goal of an initial human landing by 2024 with acceptable technical risks, while simultaneously working toward sustainable lunar exploration in the mid- to late 2020s."
The first phase of NASA's plan includes a monthlong test flight around the Moon, sans astronauts, called Artemis 1, slated for autumn 2021. Artemis 2 would then complete the same test flight in 2023 with a crew, and Artemis 3 would begin its crewed lunar mission the next year.
The Artemis 3 astronauts will spend about a week on the Moon's surface collecting samples, conducting experiments, and searching for resources, according to NASA's plan. Later in the decade, the plan calls for the agency to establish a base for humans, called the Artemis Base Camp, that would support longer expeditions on the Moon and on Mars.
"When Artemis 3 lands the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024, America will demonstrate a new level of global space leadership," NASA said in its new plan. "With lunar exploration capability re-established, NASA and the world will be ready to build a sustained presence on the lunar surface in preparation for human exploration of Mars."
NASA's timeline, however, is contingent on Congress releasing $3.2 billion to build a landing system. Overall, the program calls for $28 billion in funding through 2025.