The last manned mission to the moon took place in 1972. Forty-nine years after the Apollo program, NASA is once again talking about lunar space exploration — this time, it will have a focus on diversity and inclusion.
Ashley Strickland of CNN has reported that NASA’s newly launched space program, Artemis, includes plans to land the first person of color on the moon.
“The new goal for the program, which seeks to land the first woman and the next man on at the lunar south pole by 2024, comes from the Biden-Harris administration,” Strickland reported.
To prepare for the new solar program, the Biden administration asked Congress for a 6% increase in NASA financing over the previous year.
“This $24.7 billion funding request demonstrates the Biden Administration’s commitment to NASA and its partners who have worked so hard this past year under difficult circumstances and achieved unprecedented success,” acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said in a statement. “The President’s discretionary request increases NASA’s ability to better understand Earth and further monitor and predict the impacts of climate change. It also gives us the necessary resources to continue advancing America’s bipartisan Moon to Mars space exploration plan, including landing the first woman and first person of color on the Moon under the Artemis program.”
In a NASA release, the space agency said that the new program pairs a need to return to the moon for further research with the President’s “commitment to pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all.”
“Women and people of color represent a significant contributing portion of all facets of NASA’s workforce, and the last two astronaut classes selected have included the highest percentage of women in history,” acting NASA chief of staff Bhavya Lal said. “Fifty percent of the 2013 National class was female and 45% of the 2017 class. And today, African American, Asian Pacific Islander, Hispanic and multiracial astronauts are about a quarter of NASA’s active astronaut corps.”
“If you can see it, you can believe it. So much of what NASA does is inspire the next generation, but in order to be successful in that inspiration, we have to continue to be leaders when it comes to diversity and equity,” Lal said, reflecting on the historic nature of the program.
The Artemis program will happen in three stages. Artemis I, which already took place in November 2020, involved a crewless research flight. Artemis II is scheduled for August 2023 and will include a “flyby” of the moon on a crewed vessel. If all goes well, a crew of astronauts aboard the Artemis III plans to land in an unexplored region on the moon near its south pole by 2024.