NASA has filled in some of the blanks concerning its return to the Moon, today giving the mission a name and declaring plans to put the first woman on the lunar surface. Now known as Artemis, the mission centers on the ambition to not only land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, but use it as a springboard for missions far beyond.
President Trump's Administration aspirations regarding the Moon are pretty well known at this point. Back in 2017, it emerged that the administration was investigating the possibility of putting new landers on the Moon as part of a plan to stake out de facto property rights. Then in December of that year, Trump signed a new directive calling for NASA to focus its efforts on exploration rather than observations of Earth, with the agency then outlining a detailed roadmap on how it will make its grand return to the Moon.
These renewed plans to send humans to the Moon had originally targeted a 2028 landing, but Vice President Mike Pence ramped things up significantly in March, declaring the administration's plans to instead do so within five years. He also made mention of the administration's desire for the mission to include both male and female astronauts.
"To be clear: the first woman and the next man on the moon will both be American astronauts, launched by American rockets from American soil," he said at a meeting of the National Space Council in March, as reported by Space News.
These plans are now moving full steam ahead, at least from the perspective of the Trump Administration and NASA, with both confirming the agency's updated budget proposal will include a request for an additional US$1.6 billion to accelerate the forthcoming Moon 2024 mission. The new proposal will now be put to a vote by congress.
"Under my Administration, we are restoring NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars," Trump tweeted. "I am updating my budget to include an additional $1.6 billion so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!"
The name of the mission, Artemis, refers to the goddess of Greek mythology and twin sister of Apollo, after which NASA's first successful missions to the Moon were named.
"This program is going to enable a new generation of young girls, like my daughter, to see themselves in a way that they wouldn't otherwise," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
But the mission will be about more than simply setting foot on the lunar surface again. NASA's plans go far beyond that and include establishing lunar outpost, investigating the Moon's resources and how they might be exploited and using it a base to explore the Red Planet and further into deep space.
"We are going to the Moon – to stay. We will build sustainable infrastructure to support missions to Mars and beyond," NASA tweeted. "This is what we're building. This is what we're training for. We are going."
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