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NASA to land first woman on moon as part of upcoming Artemis mission; looks to Mars next

NASA wants to send first woman to the moon

NASA announced that it plans to land the first female ever on the moon in 2024. According to NASA, it has been 45 years since U.S. astronauts set foot on the moon, but the upcoming Artemis mission aims to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028 with the "first woman and the next man," greeting the lunar surface.

During the original Apollo missions, multiple American male astronauts stepped foot on the Moon, the last occurring during the Apollo 17 in 1972. Sally Ride became the first American woman to enter space in 1983 on the STS-7 mission.

Artemis aims to chart a radically new path for the nation's space exploration. NASA's Artemis mission seeks to "demonstrate new technological advancements and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy." Named after the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology, Artemis will have humans explore the moon's South Pole surface for the first time ever and lay the groundwork for human missions to Mars this century.

To this end, the space agency is building the new Orion spacecraft as well as the highly-advanced Space Launch System (SLS), which aim to propel heavier payloads off the Earth's surface and send humans into space for longer durations than previously achieved. NASA will also build a small spaceship, Gateway, that will orbit the moon and enable easier access to and from Earth.

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An artist's impression of the Gateway lunar landing staging base in orbit around the moon. NASA

In a promotional video about the upcoming projects, NASA scientists explain that millions of tons of water-ice were discovered beneath the moon's surface in 2009. NASA believes this ice can be extracted by machines and converted into either drinking water or oxygen for astronauts, or it can be separated from hydrogen and used as lunar surface rocket fuel.

While there had been previous calls by politicians for U.S. astronauts to return to the moon, NASA's impetus to once again create a lunar presence with astronauts gained new traction under the Trump administration. In May 2019, President Trump added $1.6 billion to NASA's $21 billion 2020 budget to kickstart plans to return humans to the moon.

"President Donald Trump has asked NASA to accelerate our plans to return to the Moon and to land humans on the surface again by 2024," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. "We will go with innovative new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the surface than was ever thought possible. This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay. And then we will use what we learn on the Moon to take the next giant leap — sending astronauts to Mars."

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