NASA is planning on sending the first woman ever and the first man in nearly five decades to the moon by 2024, thanks to an additional increase to the agency’s budget by President Trump.
Only 12 humans, all male, have ever walked on the moon and they were all American, according to Bettina Inclán, NASA Communications Director. All 12 men were Americans.
“The last person walked on the Moon in 1972,” Inclán told CNN in a statement. “No woman has ever walked on the lunar surface.”
Trump announced Monday that he is adding $1.6 billion to NASA’s budget “so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!”
“Under my Administration, we are restoring @NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars,” he tweeted.
The budget increase is on top of the initial $21 billion budget request from NASA to accelerate the return to the lunar surface.
“This investment is a down payment on NASA’s efforts and will allow us to move forward in design, development and exploration,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
NASA announced Monday that Trump challenged the agency to land at the south pole of the moon by 2024. That would be Trump’s last year in office if he is re-elected. In December 2017, Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1, which called for NASA to send humans to the moon for the first time since 1972 for “long-term exploration and use” and missions to other planets.
The space agency also revealed the new mission’s name will be Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon and twin sister of Apollo. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission succeeded in landing the first humans on the moon on July 20, 1969.
“Fifty years after Apollo, the Artemis program will carry the next man and first woman to the moon,” said Bridenstine during a press call.
“To land American astronauts on the Moon by 2024, we are working through the acquisition approach for the various projects,” said NASA in a statement. “Our efforts will include new work at NASA centers to provide the key technologies and scientific payloads needed for the lunar surface, adding to efforts already underway across the country.”
NASA hopes that more exploration of the moon will help the US establish a strategic presence in space and grow their international partnerships. 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. NASA has already spent at least $11.9 billion on the SLS, which was supposed to be ready by December 2017.
In addition to the groundbreaking research, NASA hopes that this new exploration will inspire the next generation of scientists.