NASA has officially outlined its £22bn plan to put a man and the first woman on the moon by 2024.
The Artemis mission will be the first time any humans have set foot on the lunar surface since the last Apollo lunar mission in 1972.
In order for the plans to go ahead, NASA requires the US Congress to release $3.2bn in order for a landing system to be built.
Astronauts will travel in an Apollo-like capsule called Orion that will launch on a powerful rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS).
Speaking on Monday afternoon (US time), Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said: "The $28bn represents the costs associated for the next four years in the Artemis programme to land on the Moon. SLS funding, Orion funding, the human landing system and of course the spacesuits – all of those things that are part of the Artemis programme are included."
But he explained: "The budget request that we have before the House and the Senate right now includes $3.2bn for 2021 for the human landing system. It is critically important that we get that $3.2bn."
The US House of Representatives has already passed a Bill allocating $600m towards the lunar lander. But Nasa will need more funds to develop the vehicle in full.
Mr Bridenstine added: "I want to be clear, we are exceptionally grateful to the House of Representatives that, in a bipartisan way, they have determined that funding a human landing system is important – that's what that $600m represents. It is also true that we are asking for the full $3.2bn."
The agency says its powerful new rocket, the SLS, and the Orion spacecraft are closer than ever to their first integrated launch.
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The spacecraft is complete while the core stage and its attached four engines are undergoing a final series of tests that will culminate in a critical hot fire test this fall.
Following a successful hot fire test, the core stage will be shipped to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for integration with the spacecraft.
NASA will launch an SLS and an Orion together on two flight tests around the Moon to check performance, life support, and communication capabilities.
The first mission – known as Artemis I – is on track for 2021 without astronauts, and Artemis II will fly with crew in 2023.
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In the Phase 1 plan, NASA notes additional details about conducting a new test during the Artemis II mission – a proximity operations demonstration.
Shortly after Orion separates from the interim cryogenic propulsion stage, astronauts will manually pilot Orion as they approach and back away from the stage.
This demonstration will assess Orion’s handling qualities and related hardware and software to provide performance data and operational experience that cannot be readily gained on the ground in preparation for rendezvous, proximity operations, and docking, as well as undocking operations in lunar orbit beginning on Artemis III.
While preparing for and carrying out these flight test missions, NASA already will be back on the Moon robotically – using commercial delivery services to send dozens of new science investigations and technology demonstrations to the Moon twice per year beginning in 2021.
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In 2024, Artemis III will be humanity’s return to the surface of the Moon.
Critical to the Artemis program will be NASA's separate Gateway mission, this will be an outpost orbiting the Moon that provides vital support for a sustainable, long-term human return to the lunar surface, as well as a staging point for deep space exploration.
After launching on SLS, astronauts will travel about 240,000 miles to lunar orbit aboard Orion, at which point they will directly board one of the new commercial human landing systems, or dock to the Gateway to inspect it and gather supplies before boarding the landing system for their expedition to the surface.
Wearing modern spacesuits that allow for greater flexibility and movement than those of their Apollo predecessors, astronauts will collect samples and conduct a range of science experiments over the course of nearly seven days.
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Using the lander, they will return to lunar orbit before ultimately heading home to Earth aboard Orion.
Work is progressing rapidly on the Gateway. NASA will integrate the first two components to launch – the power and propulsion element and the habitation and logistics outpost – in 2023.
This foundation for the Gateway will be able to operate autonomously, conducting remote science experiments when astronauts are not aboard.
NASA has selected the first two science instrument suites to conduct space weather investigations in lunar orbit before crew visits.
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While NASA has not made a final decision to use the Gateway for Artemis III, Artemis IV and beyond will send crew aboard Orion to dock to the Gateway, where two crew members can stay aboard the spaceship in orbit while two go to the surface.
Over time, the outpost will evolve, with new modules added by international partners, allowing crew members to conduct increasingly longer lunar missions.
As detailed in the agency’s concept for surface sustainability earlier this year, an incremental buildup of infrastructure on the surface will follow later this decade, allowing for longer surface expeditions with more crew.
That concept calls for an Artemis Base Camp that would include new rovers, power systems, habitats, and more on the surface for long-term exploration of the Moon.
Throughout the Artemis program, robots and humans will search for, and potentially extract, resources such as water that can be converted into other usable resources, including oxygen and fuel.
By fine-tuning precision landing technologies as well as developing new mobility capabilities, astronauts will travel farther distances and explore new regions of the Moon.
“With bipartisan support from Congress, our 21st century push to the Moon is well within America’s reach,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“As we’ve solidified more of our exploration plans in recent months, we’ve continued to refine our budget and architecture.
"We’re going back to the Moon for scientific discovery, economic benefits, and inspiration for a new a generation of explorers.
"As we build up a sustainable presence, we’re also building momentum toward those first human steps on the Red Planet.”
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