Washington: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will land the first person of colour on the moon as part of an international spaceflight program called Artemis, according to the US space agency.
Taking a giant step for diversity, the Biden-Harris Administration seeks to land the first woman and the next man on the lunar South Pole by 2024.
On Friday the administration submitted US President Joe Biden’s priorities for 2022 discretionary spending to Congress.
“This goal aligns with President Biden’s commitment to pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk.
While the first cadre of astronauts for the Artemis program was announced in December, the first two crew members for Artemis III in 2024 have yet to be announced.
The initial group of 18 represents a diverse team of astronauts, including those new to NASA and veterans of spaceflight. The Artemis astronauts also include Indian American Raja Chari.
“These are historic moments in advancing equity for all of mankind,” said Bhavya Lal, acting NASA chief of staff. She added that the announcement is personally “very meaningful” to her. Lal came to the US at 18 years old, carrying two suitcases full of books and never imagining she would work at NASA in the future.
Returning astronauts to the moon will act as a proving ground before sending them on to Mars, a long-term goal of the Artemis program.
When astronauts explore the lunar south pole, which has never been visited by humans before, they will build on the legacy and science gained during the Apollo program and carry it into a new century.
In a statement released by NASA, the proposed spending also calls for an increase of more than 6 percent than the previous year.
“This USD 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,” Jurczyk said.
“The President’s discretionary request Strengthens NASA’s ability to better understand Earth and how it works as an integrated system, from our oceans to our atmosphere, how it all impacts our daily lives, and how it all is impacted by climate change,” he added.
In addition to aiding the Artemis program and studying climate change, the President’s request would also help further the agency’s robotic exploration of space, provide a boost to aviation technology and provide new funding for NASA’s efforts to engage in STEM outreach for underserved students, according to the agency.