A grand gesture that is way overdue
It’s been quite a few years since NASA and the United States space program has sent astronauts to the Moon. To be more specific, December 12, 1972, was the last time.
In those days, female astronauts were nonexistent. Finally, in 1978, NASA selected 35 new candidates, six of whom were women. Five years later, one of them named Sally Ride, became the first woman in space.
NASA plans for a female moon landing
Recently, NASA formally outlined a $28 billion plan for returning to the Moon by 2024. In the program called Artemis, NASA plans to launch a woman and a man onto the lunar surface.
However, the agency’s timeline depends on Congress releasing $3.2 billion to construct a landing system.
The plan calls for two astronauts to travel in Orion, an Apollo-like capsule that will blast off on a massively powerful rocket known as SLS.
NASA discusses details
The NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine, added these details, “The $28 billion represents the costs associated for the next four years in the Artemis program to land on the Moon. SLS funding, Orion funding, the human landing system, and of course, the spacesuits — all of those things that are part of the Artemis program are included.”
And he also pointed out, “The budget request that we have before the House and the Senate right now includes $3.2 billion for 2021 for the human landing system. It is critically important that we get that $3.2 billion.”
The US House of Representatives previously passed a bill to allocate $600 million for building the lunar lander. Yet NASA is going to need even more funds to complete the vehicle.
Bridenstine continued, “I want to be clear, we are exceptionally grateful to the House of Representatives that, in a bipartisan way, they have determined that funding a human landing system is important — that’s what that $600 million represents. It is also true that we are asking for the full $3.2 billion.”
Bridenstine first informed CNN in 2019 about their plans to put the first woman astronaut on the Moon by 2024. He stressed that this person would be someone “who has been proven, somebody who has flown, somebody who has been on the International Space Station already.” He further stated it would be someone who is already an astronaut.
When that interview aired, there were a total of twelve active woman astronauts. Since that time, five more female astronauts have been added to the NASA roster. But it’s still unclear if these newest astronauts would qualify to be on that first landing mission.
When asked when crew members for Artemis would be named, the NASA chief said he would like to create that team at least two years before the mission.
However, he also stressed, “I think it’s important we start identifying the Artemis team earlier than not… primarily because I think it will serve as a source of inspiration.”
White House views on the NASA lunar mission
The White House is striving to renew the United States as the world leaders in space. They believe that sending astronauts back to the Moon is a great starting point. Additionally, the mission intends to extract valuable water-ice deposits from the Moon’s South Pole.
It is believed that these deposits could be used to make rocket fuel right on the Moon. This would accomplish two things: 1) produce fuel at lower costs than transporting it from Earth, 2) serve as a foundation for a future lunar economy.
However, Vice President Mike Pence has voiced concerns regarding China’s space ambitions. In January 2019, they became the first nation to land a robot rover on the Moon’s far side. The Chinese are now prepping for its initial mission to bring lunar soil samples back to Earth.
China has been working on new-generation spacecraft for its astronauts that could travel to deep space destinations. Although the Chinese are not on a timeline to achieve this by 2024, it is expected that they will make notable progress towards such a goal within the decade.