Seeing the first woman land on the moon by 2024 will inspire a new generation of young girls, Nasa’s chief has said.
Jim Bridenstine said the history of moon landings shows little opportunities were offered to women, but described the current crop of astronauts as “very diverse”.
The space agency administrator was speaking after US President Donald Trump announced an additional 1.6 billion dollars to go towards accelerating the lunar programme.
Speaking at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington DC on Tuesday, Mr Bridenstein said: “I have an 11-year-old daughter and I want her to be able to see herself in the same way that our current very diverse astronaut corps sees itself.
“And if we look at the history of moon landings, it was test pilots from the 1960s and 1970s, fighter pilots, and there were no opportunities for women back then.
“This programme is going to enable a new generation of young girls like my daughter to see themselves in a way that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise see themselves.”
Mr Bridenstine has previously said Mr Trump’s desire to put humans back on the moon by the year 2024 would provide an opportunity to test technology and capabilities before carrying out a mission to land on Mars by 2033.
He told the summit on Tuesday: “What we are trying to do is create as much of the architecture as possible so that it can be replicated for our eventual human mission to Mars.
“So again, we are accelerating the path to get to the moon. We want to be there, no kidding, by 2024.
“That accelerates our eventual Mars missions as well. But the first step is getting to the moon.
“We have to learn how to live and work on another world for long periods of time.”
He added: “The president has granted us 1.6 billion additional dollars, that didn’t come from the science mission directorate, it didn’t come from the International Space Station – 1.6 billion additional dollars for our acceleration of the lunar programme so that we can get the next man and the first woman to the surface of the moon.
“That’s important. When we accelerate the lunar programme, we are, by definition, accelerating the humans to Mars programme. That’s what we’re doing.”
On Monday, Mr Trump tweeted: “Under my Administration, we are restoring @NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars.”
Mr Bridenstine tweeted: “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.”
The last manned Moon landing happened in 1972, as part of the Apollo 17 mission.
There have only been six times that astronauts have walked on the Moon, all of which were carried out by Nasa as part of its Apollo programme.
Mr Bridenstine later told a Nasa Town Hall event: “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.
“In the 1960s, young ladies didn’t have the opportunity to see themselves in that role. Today they do.”
In closing remarks he added: “We’ve had the conversation about my 11-year-old daughter.
“I’m sure there’s people in this room that have their own daughters and want them to see themselves in this role in the future.
“Not that everybody’s going to be an astronaut, but people need to understand that opportunities like this are available to everybody in America.”