A woman could walk on Earth’s moon for the first time by 2024 through NASA's newly unveiled Artemis program.
The mission, which will send a man and woman to the moon, is named after the god Apollo’s twin sister — partially an allusion to the 1969 Apollo 11 space mission, the first to land humans on the moon. But it also uses the goddess' name as way to reflect NASA's efforts to increase female representation.
“I think it is very beautiful that 50 years after Apollo, the Artemis program will carry the next man and the first woman to the moon,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “I have a daughter who is 11 years old, and I want her to be able to see herself in the same role as the next women that go to the moon.”
Our #Moon2024 mission is being named after Artemis, who was a sister to Apollo and goddess of the Moon. We're excited to be landing the first woman and next man on the surface of the Moon by 2024. pic.twitter.com/ri0MnoZN0k— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) May 13, 2019
The announcement of the Artemis program came after the White House added an additional $1.6 billion to NASA’s 2020 fiscal budget request for $21 billion to fund the historic trip to the moon, according to CNN. However, the request is still pending Congressional approval.
If funded, the Artemis mission would also be the first time a person has set foot on the moon since 1972, NASA Communications Director Bettina Inclán pointed out. Only 12 people have been able to walk on the moon in recorded history, all of whom were American men, she said.
Women are largely underrepresented in science, technology, economics, and math (STEM). A 2010 research report by the American Association of University Women showed that persistent stereotypes and implicit biases, such as the idea that men are better at science and math than women, causes fewer women to pursue these fields.
Lack of female representation also reinforces the misconception that these fields of study are not for girls and women. Groups like 500 Women Scientists are working to increase the visibility of women in science, as women are often underutilized even after entering STEM-related careers. The group created an all-female database of scientists, enabling qualified women to be easily found based on their area of expertise, location, discipline, level of experience, and areas of interest. It also makes these scientists searchable by their availability for interviews, panels, conferences, and other academic or professional purposes.
The Artemis program could also help boost visibility for women in STEM fields. The next moon walk could be a pivotal moment for female representation in science — and people are already looking forward to it.
One giant leap for womankind. https://t.co/Ms9roLcaIR— Bill Nye (@BillNye) May 14, 2019
We are going to put the first woman on the moon. @NASA is going to beat me to it before I can apply 😏🌖🇺🇸— Kelsie O'Brien (@KelsieOBrien11) May 14, 2019
#NASA set to send first woman ever, first man in nearly 5 decades to the moon by 2024. Great news but it'll be even better when sending a woman isn't big news but just expected. https://t.co/z8XwjOBzvt#WomenInScience— sgaudin (@sgaudin) May 14, 2019
The announcement of the Artemis program comes just a few months after NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said that “the first person on Mars is likely to be a woman,” during a March interview.
Earlier this year, NASA called off its first all-female spacewalk due to a lack of suitable spacesuits, prompting backlash. However, the unveiling of the Artemis program suggests NASA is placing an emphasis on female inclusion as the future of science, more so now than ever before.
CNN reported that NASA is also hoping the new initiative will help to create more international partnerships, allow for new scientific research and discoveries, and inspire the nation’s next generation of scientists.