Image Source: NASA
By Anna Day | @anna_day_
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has recently announced it plans to return humans to the Moon, and this time a woman will take the first steps on the iridescent rock.
When they land, the American astronauts will step foot where no human has ever been before: the Moon’s South Pole.
The program has been named Artemis after the twin sister of Apollo in Greek Mythology.
Apollo was the program name of the first moon landing mission in 1969.
With Artemis, NASA plans to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028, and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.
The program will also set up resources on the Moon to eventually send humans to Mars, which is a major end-goal for NASA in what they call a “new era of space exploration”.
But to land the first woman and the next man at the south pole of the Moon, NASA needs further funding from the US Congress.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said the extra $1.6 billion, which the White House said on Monday it was seeking from Congress, would cover programs until 2020.
This is on top of the $21 billion budget that President Trump has already requested for NASA.
“I have a daughter, she’s 11 years old, and I want her to see herself in the same position that our current, very diverse astronaut corps currently sees itself, having the opportunity to go to the Moon,” Mr Bridenstine said in a speech at NASA headquarters in Washington.
If approved by the US Congress, the Artemis program marks an important moment for women in space history.
Dr Alice Gorman a faculty member of the International Space University’s Southern Hemisphere Program in Adelaide and a Director on the Board of the Space Industry Association of Australia.
In an industry that has long been male-dominated, Dr Gorman said the first female moonwalk is “a very suitable symbol for the beginning of a new phase of human engagement with the Moon”.
“This woman will become as celebrated as Neil Armstrong or Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space in 1963,” she said.
“The first woman on the Moon will have to speak new words to mark the moment and they’ll become as historic as the famous ‘one giant leap’.
“I’m eager to hear what they are and to see the physical traces of her steps in the lunar dust.”
A female moon landing will be a significant moment in inspiring more girls and young women to pursue careers in the space industry.
Dr Gorman thinks women will bring with them new perspectives and ideas, a particularly relevant trait when considering the complex problem-solving nature of space exploration.
“Studies have shown that girls tend to be more interested in social justice and environmental management than boys – and because of this association with female interests, boys tend to avoid them,” she said.
“I’m not suggesting there is a simplistic correlation, but at the moment anyway, involving more women means these issues get more exposure.
“In the ideal world, there would be no gender divide in these attitudes. And we certainly need more people in space to be thinking about the ethical and social dimensions of space exploration.
“Women are end-users of satellite services such as telecommunications and navigation but are rarely considered as a separate group with different needs and perspectives.
“Simply having more of a voice at the table will make a difference.”