FILE - A full moon in Washington. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet)
FILE - A full moon in Washington. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet)

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has unveiled a plan to land the first woman on the moon in 2024.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the $28 billion plan aims to return humans to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

“We’re going back to the moon for scientific discovery, economic benefits, and inspiration for a new generation of explorers,” Bridenstine said in a statement Monday. “As we build up a sustainable presence, we’re also building momentum toward those first human steps on the Red Planet,” referring to Mars.

NASA’s moon mission is part of its Artemis plan. Astronauts will be propelled to the moon by NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), and the Orion spacecraft. 

Bridenstine told reporters that “political risks” have frequently threatened NASA’s work, especially before such a crucial election. If Congress approves $3.2 billion in initial funding by Christmas, “we’re still on track for a 2024 moon landing,” he said.

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NASA’s announcement to send a woman to the moon comes as President Donald Trump is courting female voters ahead of his bid for a second term in office in the Nov. 3 election. Trump has vowed to nominate a woman sometime this week to replace late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Polls have shown Trump trailing Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden among female voters by wide margins, particularly among white suburban women.

Three projects are competing to build a lunar lander that will transport two astronauts to the moon from the Orion vessel. 

One is being developed by Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in partnership with Draper, Lockheed Martin, and Northrup Grumman. The other projects are under development by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Dynetics.  

After an Artemis 1 unmanned flight around the moon in 2021 and an Artemis II manned trip around the moon in 2023, Artemis III will land on the lunar surface in 2024 and remain for a week. Astronauts will spend their time collecting soil and rock samples, searching for water and other resources, and conducting science experiments.