NASA's Artemis program aims to put first woman on moon

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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced late Wednesday that an Orion capsule named Artemis 3 would put astronauts back on the moon in 2024, including a woman crew member.

Artemis, named after a Greek goddess, is to be the follow-on to Apollo — the six-flight moonshot program that put 12 men on the Earth’s satellite five decades ago.

Read more: Opinion — 2024 timeframe ‘dangerous’

Bridenstine’s announcement included the naming of a private firm Maxar Technologies to build the “power and propulsion element” for the lunar orbiting outpost that would be called “Gateway.” It is to be powered by huge solar energy panels.

Still undecided, he said, was who would build the lander to transport crews from the outpost to the moon’s surface and back to Gateway.

“We’re not owning the hardware; we’re buying the service, said Bridenstine, adding that time until 2024 was relatively short and that the ultimate goal was to reach Mars.

Contenders for the lander include Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Blue Origin, an offshoot of Amazon chief Jeff Bezos.

Flights for assemble orbiting platform

To assemble Gateway, five building block launches using the Boeing-led Space Launch System (SLS) rocket — currently under development — were planned, said the NASA chief.

NASA l Lunar Module Challenger der Apollo 17 (picture alliance/NASA/CNP/AdMedia)

December 1972: the lunar module of the last Apollo 17 spacecraft

Artemis 1 would be an uncrewed mission around the moon in 2020. Artemis 2 would be crewed and orbit the moon in 2022. Artmeis 3 would bring astronauts to the orbiting mini-station in 2024 prior to a lunar surface and return to Gateway.

Alarm over funding source

Last week, educationalists reacted with alarm over news that President Donald Trump’s Whitehouse, including Vice President Mike Pence, wanted to source extra funds for space exploration from the so-called Pell Grant.

The US federal fund is for low-income students to help them cover college tuition and living costs and has run for nearly 50 years.

ipj/rc (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)

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